For officials at Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, Idaho, this week is reportedly known as the “annual fly-in event.” In other circles, it’s known as “summer camp for billionaires.”

Every year, some of the richest and most powerful leaders in business, media and politics touch down in Sun Valley, Idaho, for a private confab hosted by New York investment bank Allen & Company. The vibe is trail-dad chic — think puffy Patagonia vests and Apple watches and stealth-wealth cashmere pullovers. Imagine the resort from Dirty Dancing but replace all the beautiful young dancers with mostly older White men carrying Wall Street Journals under their arms and grumbling about regulatory overreach. It is a real romp.

The summit’s agenda and lecture topics are kept secret, and reporters who attend generally have to stay off the record so that the one-percenters can mingle and speak freely as they wander the mountain resort, gossiping about industry and, occasionally, forging historic multibillion-dollar deals. Sun Valley is also widely believed to be the place where Jeff Bezos decided to buy The Washington Post, and the site of the meet-cute between Comcast and NBC Universal. (Warren Buffett, who is notably absent from this year’s guest list, once referred to Sun Valley dealmaking as ABWA, or “acquisitions by walking around.”)

This year’s parade of private jets is expected to touch down Tuesday, as the Idaho Mountain Express reported last month, bringing together dozens of power brokers — including AI kingpin Sam Altman; Disney CEO Bob Iger and a coterie of his potential successors; plus all of the usual suspects like Apple’s Tim Cook, Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai, media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Oprah Winfrey and many others, including David Zaslav, the CEO of CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, according to Bloomberg and Variety. (A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Discovery confirmed Zaslav would attend.)

There are also some notably absent names from the guest list this year.

There’s Buffett, who is normally a fixture at the event but who is nearly 94 and, perhaps, happy to let his spryer successor, 62-year-old Greg Abel, handle the high-altitude trekking and chit-chattery. Less likely but still half-seriously rumored is that Buffett is avoiding the shindig after the press last year picked up on his wife, Astrid, complaining about having to pay $4 for a cup of coffee.

Also absent this year is Elon Musk, who might seem like a shoo-in until you imagine him winding up on a rafting trip with a bunch of CEOs whom he publicly urged, less than a year ago, to go f— themselves.

While we expect plenty of chatter about artificial intelligence, the Succession-level drama about Iger’s succession plan, and the head-spinning negotiations that led to the Paramount-Skydance merger, there is one giant elephant — or donkey — in the room this year.

Questions about President Joe Biden’s ability to campaign have wealthy donors and Democratic officials in a tizzy. And it would be hard to imagine that a gaggle of elite media moguls would sit around the fire with their s’mores and bourbon and not speculate about potential replacements on the 2024 ballot.

That could make the week particularly important for three governors on the guest list this year: Gretchen Whitmer, Josh Shapiro and Wes Moore, all of whom have been floated as potential Biden replacements, even as the president forcefully denies that he’s contemplating dropping out.

The political intrigue is, well, intriguing. But it’s also a timely reminder to zoom out and consider just how powerful the US has let its billionaire class become, and how events like Sun Valley amplify the inequities in America that are so systemic we hardly bat an eye at them.

As the writer Hamilton Nolan wrote in 2021, Sun Valley is a place where “the billionaires are feted by the mere millionaires; the millionaires drum up enough deals to allow them to buy their third and fourth homes … This is the wondrous model of American capitalism in action — a tiny handful of wealthy people eat cake, and an entire nation gathers downstream, hoping to snatch up a few falling crumbs.”

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