SUN VALLEY — The Allen & Co. conference is so hush-hush, even some Ketchum business owners declined to talk openly about it Tuesday.
Local Ketchum retailers said they have not gotten a boost in business from the conference-goers — though hotels and restaurants might have. And while the annual event typically brings big names such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Ketchum locals choose to respect their privacy.
Billionaires arrived in the Sun Valley Resort Tuesday for the Allen & Co. conference, which brings together some of the world’s wealthiest men and women in business and technology. It’s an event that’s known for kick-starting discussions about mergers and other business deals.
Public access is highly restricted, and potted trees offered privacy for white tents set up around the resort for meetings.
But one man was determined to get their attention, with or without an invitation: California businessman Dushime Gashugi, who’s come to Idaho for three years in order to solicit advice from the most successful people he knows of.
“The last two times, it was like easier than getting a girl’s number at a bar,” he said.
This year, the owner of Gashugi Advisors had to hold up a sign on a street corner Tuesday at Ketchum’s city limits — he’d been banned from the resort during the 2016 Allen & Co. conference.
“The vision is to create an investment holding company like Berkshire-Hathaway,” Gashugi said.
He typically targets a handful of businessmen to pick their brains. But this time, his sign was addressed only to Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates, asking for advice.
The best advice he’s received? Be careful who you marry, because that person can affect your future. Another thing he’s learned is to “Never ever give up, because so many of the connections I’ve made were right when I was about to give up.”
At Sun Valley Resort, attendees were greeted by classical music and a babbling pond with ducks, swans and fish. Media members were restricted to fenced-off areas to photograph and shout out questions to attendees in front of the resort’s entrance. The tight rules had thrown off some writers and photographers who were attending the event for the first time.
“I’m used to being part of the situation,” said Shutterstock’s West Coast entertainment photographer Rob Latour, from Los Angeles.
But it didn’t keep him from enjoying parts of his stay. Sun Valley reminded him of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, he said. And the Pioneer Saloon in Ketchum was “like an old-time steakhouse.”
Shannyn Schack, an attendant for the Sun Valley/Ketchum Visitor Center, said she’d been slammed with visitors since Thursday, and suspected many of those seeking information this week were conference attendees.
“It’s been pretty nonstop,” she said.
Two years ago, she said, she’d popped in at Starbucks — where the visitor center is located — and saw Bill Gates.
The Allen & Co. conference continues through Sunday.