The Sun Valley Summer Camp for Billionaires: What Is It, and What Happens There?

As far as summer camps go, the Sun Valley Conference takes the cake when it comes to the cool factor. Otherwise known as the “Summer Camp for Billionaires,” the conference hosts only the world’s most rich and powerful individuals from the political, media, tech and philanthropic arenas. Funded by the private investment firm Allen & Company, the invite-only event takes place for one week in July in Sun Valley, Idaho. Last year was the first in its nearly 40-year history that the camp did not occur. After a one-year hiatus, the event was back on, giving execs a chance to meet, mingle, smooze and hatch up new deals in private.

The Who’s Who of Sun Valley Summer Camp

Obviously, as the camp’s name implies, you must be a billionaire to receive an invitation. Not only do you have to have an embarrassingly large bankroll, but you must also be a somebody worth doing business with. The attendees usually include only America’s wealthiest mega-billionaires and the executives of the nation’s most powerful companies. This year’s roster looked something like this:

  • Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

  • Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder

  • Tim Cook, Apple CEO

  • Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder

  • Disney chairman Michael Iger

  • Reed Hastings, Netflix co-CEO

  • Mary Barra, GM CEO

  • Shari Redstone, ViacomCBS chair

  • Jason Kilar, WarnerMedia CEO

  • David Zaslav, Discovery CEO

  • Stacey Bendet, Alice + Olivia CEO and fashion designer

Anderson Cooper of CNN also managed to snag an invite, though that could have been more for publicity’s sake than anything else.

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A Day in the Life of a Billionaire at Sun Valley

A typical day at Sun Valley Summer Camp is a far cry from those you spent at the summer camps of your childhood. The event begins with your standard influx of private jets to Sun Valley’s Friedman Memorial Airport — an occasion that requires the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to ban all other flight traffic from the West Coast to as far as Michigan and Canada.

The billionaires and their families then climb into private cars and head over to Sun Valley Lodge, a beautiful home to full-service spas, cozy gathering spaces, stunning mountain views and — oh yeah — rooms that start at $450 a night. There, guests can splash around in the giant pool, bowl in a private alley, skate in a private ice-rink and enjoy gourmet meals in impeccably designed (and private) restaurants. Outside of the resort are hiking and biking trails, golf-courses, lakes, tennis and pickleball courts and more.

While Sun Valley Lodge offers no shortage of things to do, the billionaires do a lot more than cast their lines and sing around the campfire. No, the true purpose of the Sun Valley retreat is to encourage networking among the ultra-wealthy and facilitate new deals and acquisitions off-the-record. It is said that major mergers and deals have occurred following the Sun Valley Conference, including but not limited to Disney’s acquisition of ABC and Bezos’ procurement of The Washington Post.

Yes, the Sun Valley Summer Camp for Billionaires is a heck of an event and one that, for many of us, will remain as mythical as Santa Clause. But hey, if you want to aspire to wealth of Sun Valley proportions, you have to start somewhere. Why not start with making the money you do have work harder for you?

Rick - July 26, 2021

How do I get my invite? I’ll probably have to drive since my budget has been cut.

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