SUN VALLEY, Idaho - In what's certain to be an unfamiliar role for him, NBC Universal boss Jeff Zucker is expected to be the popular guy at the Allen & Co. media conference, which officially kicks off today.
Sources said Zucker will be as sought after as Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang is on the dealmaking front, mainly because many of the entertainment and banking titans attending the confab plan on bending his ear about a merger or other combination with NBC or about off-loading some assets to the network.
"Zucker's made it pretty clear that he's looking to do deals and remake NBC's overall approach," said one source, who will be at the conference and plans on talking with Zucker.
Sources have said that General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt is being coy when he says that NBC isn't for sale. While Immelt might be opposed to an outright sale of NBC because of the large tax hit GE would take, sources said they think he's interested in exploring a merger or spin-off - with Time Warner and Liberty Media mentioned most often as the likely suitors.
However, Zucker himself threw cold water on that notion earlier this week when on CNBC he said he doesn't see either a sale or spin-off in NBC's future.
Nevertheless, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and Liberty Media's John Malone are expected to be in Sun Valley this week, and the betting is they'll be talking with Zucker.