By Liana B. Baker
(Reuters) - Liberty Media Corp
Known as "the King of Cable," the 72-year-old is one of the 300 or so executives expected to attend the conference that runs Tuesday through Friday in Idaho. The gathering, hosted by Allen & Co, a New York-based investment bank, has a history of launching landmark media deals such as Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2009, but has been quieter in recent years.
The guests, who shed their suits for khakis and fleece vests for the week in Sun Valley, attend lectures on politics, business and other subjects, which are closed to the press. They are given plenty of time to socialize at group lunches, dinners and barbecues. Close attention is paid to who huddles with whom and who takes bike rides together.
Bob Iger, the CEO of Walt Disney Co
Barry Diller, the chairman of IAC/InterActive Corp
On the tech side, guests will include Facebook Inc
Venture capitalists and private equity chiefs expected to attend include Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz LLC and Henry Kravis of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
The dealmaking pace could pick up now that the U.S. economy is finding its footing, said Todd Davison, a New York-based partner in the investment bank Centerview Partners. He said he expects to see more strategic transactions across cable and the traditional media sector.
"Media executives are feeling increased confidence to enhance their business prospects through actions other than purely internal operations," he said.
NEXT: CABLE CONSOLIDATION
Since cable pioneer Malone jumped back into the U.S. cable market with Liberty Media's investment in a 28 percent stake in Charter Communications
"Consolidation in cable is going to happen. The question is, who leads it? Malone has the credibility," said Matthew Harrigan, a Wunderlich Securities analyst in Denver.
On the guest list, Malone is listed one spot alphabetically above Robert Marcus, the chief operating officer of Time Warner Cable Inc
Another cable giant in attendance will be Comcast's CEO Brian Roberts. Others on the list include DirecTV
Likely Hulu bidder Peter Chernin, who in the last two years has bought stakes in an Indian media company and online companies, is also on the guest list.
Malone, however, is likely to be the center of attention. A year ago, Malone was vocal at the Sun Valley conference about his plans to gain control of Sirius XM
This time, Malone will be talking up cable TV. Charter's stock is up 27 percent since Malone took the stake in Charter while Time Warner Cable's stock is also up about 20 percent in the same time span.
"Malone has created a currency in Charter and wants to use it to consolidate," said Todd Mitchell, a Brean Capital analyst in New York. "We believe Time Warner Cable is the prize on Malone's mind."
Analysts say that Malone's ambitions in the United States mirror his European expansion plans. Malone has been on a decade-long acquisition spree in Europe.
Through his Liberty Global Inc
Mike Fries, the CEO of Liberty Global
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Jan Paschal)