People once begged to get into deal-maker Aryeh Bourkoff’s so-called “media slopes” conference.
Now it’s Bourkhoff and his team scouring around for conference attendees, Fox Business has learned.
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In recent days officials at Bourkoff’s boutique investment bank LionTree have been quietly asking media executives and other assorted dealmakers if they would be interested in attending what is being billed as a scaled-back conference scheduled for early March in its usual venue, the swanky Deer Valley ski resort in Park City Utah.
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The event was the place to see and be seen. Top media executives like Shari Redstone and Robert Bakish of Paramount had attended, as did other assorted business and finance moguls, and a slew of celebrities such as actress Margot Robbie and Open AI chief Sam Altman.
They all came to kiss Bourkoff’s proverbial ring as he became the king of media deal-making in recent years. His crowning achievement is being among the lead bankers in the $85 billion spin-off of AT&T’s Warner Media to Discovery, completed in 2022.
But a drought in deal-making for media assets amid an uncertain regulatory environment has dimmed Bourkoff’s halo. LionTree has announced layoffs and continues to scale back on personnel, according to former employees.
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The firm’s less lofty stature has put a damper on its once star-studded conference, according to people with knowledge of the matter. They say this year’s event will be more low-key than those in the past.
“We’re in different times,” one media source says.
A spokesman for LionTree had no comment but would not deny that this year’s event will be scaled back from prior years.
During the event’s heyday, which included last year’s conference, as many as 250 to 300 people attended. LionTree put a cap on the guest list because of the intense demand that came after the company began alerting its A-list invitees with letters stating they have been chosen.
Some people offered to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a ticket.
This year’s potential invitees are getting telephone calls and polite requests for their presence. The company is telling people they are expecting just 150 attendees.
It’s unclear if the firm will be able to convince top media executives and celebrities to attend as well. Firm executives have just begun their outreach and don’t have a guest list.
The conference planning comes during a difficult time for media deal-making. The Biden Administration has stymied large transactions by companies like Disney and others on antitrust grounds. One transaction that is in the work involves Redstone, who is shopping her Paramount media empire. Bourkoff has been the company’s long-time investment banker.
The conference would seem to be the perfect place to announce a coming deal. But it’s unclear if Redstone and Paramount CEO Bakish are attending, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. A Paramount spokesman would not deny that both Redstone and Bakish are on the fence about attending.
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