'Succession' took on this invite-only billionaire tech retreat and it got a lot right - down to the name tags

succession bezosHBO / Drew Angerer, Getty Images

  • The retreat for power players featured in the latest episode of HBO's "Succession" is based on a very real "billionaires summer camp" in Idaho, and the annual guest list includes names like Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates.
  • While the Roy family endured a PR nightmare in the midst of an acquisition attempt at the fictional conference, the real-life Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference often spurns major media and tech mergers and deals.
  • One joke in the episode, titled "Argestes," is that everyone has to wear name cards, even Mark Zuckerberg. That's just one of the references that ring true.
  • Warning: "Succession" spoilers ahead.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

In season 2, episode 6 of HBO's billionaire family dramedy "Succession," the Roys attend a media and banking retreat. The Roy family is aiming for an acquisition, but end up dealing with an unexpected bout of bad press.

The setting is a conference called Argestes modeled almost perfectly after a real-life counterpart: The Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. Each summer, a laundry list of the richest, most influential people in business, media, and technology join together, striking major deals with each other along the way.

As usual, "Succession" expertly wove together its fictional narrative with references from the real world happenings at the Sun Valley conference. Here are just some of the ways the Roys' retreat from hell poked fun at the actual goings-on of powerful, wealthy individuals.
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The attendees fight for space for their private jets.

The attendees fight for space for their private jets.

When the episode opens, the Roys are circling the airspace over the retreat in a private jet to wait for a slot to open on the ground. Logan quips that he'll kill someone if a "tech f---" gets landed before them.

At the real Sun Valley conference, rows and rows of private jets really can be spotted, as in the photo above from this year's retreat. After all, the power players on the invite-only list don't fly coach.

Members of the press can snap photos outside the conference when everyone arrives, but the actual events are closed off.

Members of the press can snap photos outside the conference when everyone arrives, but the actual events are closed off.

When Roy family members start to arrive at their retreat, they pull up in black cars to a rustic stone lodge entrance, where event staff greets them. Reporters and photographers stand nearby, snapping photos.

The real 'summer camp for billionaires' features the same entrance scene. Press are only allowed at the beginning of the event, and the resulting photo galleries feature the leisure wear-clad CEOs and COOs exiting the same black cars.

Read more: Silicon Valley giants and media moguls have been flocking to an invite-only 'summer camp for billionaires' this week in Idaho — see who's in attendance

Speaking of leisure outfits, the puffy vests worn by the Roys mirror the relaxed dress code of Sun Valley.

Speaking of leisure outfits, the puffy vests worn by the Roys mirror the relaxed dress code of Sun Valley.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made headlines with his short-sleeved shirt and puffy vest combo at the 2017 iteration of the Sun Valley conference. This year, Lachlan Murdoch donned a black puffy vest and a gray undershirt.

Similarly, Kendall wears his puffy vest and shirt throughout the Argestes retreat, and Roman pokes fun at Greg Wambsgans for his particularly puffy vest of choice.

At the Sun Valley retreat, attendees have often received Patagonia fleece vests.

And name tags actually are required — and Mark Zuckerberg does wear one.

And name tags actually are required — and Mark Zuckerberg does wear one.

At one point in the episode, Pierce family matriarch Nan scoffs at the idea of putting on a laminated name card.

"Join the fun," CEO Rhea says. "Everyone wears one, Zuckerberg wears one."

That's true. The Facebook CEO was captured chatting with Senator Chuck Schumer at Sun Valley in 2017, and his name tag was pinned unceremoniously to the bottom corner of his shirt. Everyone probably already knows everyone else at the conference, but it's, as Rhea puts it, "A show of false humility."

Greg says he touched Bill Gates, who is a Sun Valley regular.

Greg says he touched Bill Gates, who is a Sun Valley regular.

Apart from Zuckerberg and Bezos, plenty of other moguls and big names from a variety of spheres and industries regularly make their way to Idaho for the Sun Valley conference.

Those include Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and philanthropist, who Greg says he accidentally ran into within minutes of arriving at the fictional Argestes.

Other big names that have made apperances at the real Sun Valley are Melinda Gates, Warren and Susan Buffet, Tony Blair, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, financier George Soros, media mogul (and likely Logan Roy inspiration) Rupert Murdoch, Ivanka and Jared Kushner, Oprah Winfrey, and many, many more.

In 2019, Gates, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Disney CEO Bob Iger, Zuckerberg, Bezos, Diane Von Furstenberg, Gayle King, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell all attended.

The Argestes retreat includes a "culture" walk through a serene natural setting that includes a waterfall.

The Argestes retreat includes a "culture" walk through a serene natural setting that includes a waterfall.

Tom takes part in the "Airbus Cultural and Leadership Walk," which takes Argestes attendees past a scenic waterfall for a corporate-sponsored activity.

The Sun Valley itinerary may be kept quiet from the public – the real action happens when deals get finalized, anyways – but the Idaho retreat locale is equally as scenic. The set designed for the Argestes episode echoes a lot of the rustic details of the lodge, with its rooms that start at $450 a night, too.

The Roys attempt to finalize a media merger before news of their bad PR spreads.

The Roys attempt to finalize a media merger before news of their bad PR spreads.

The episode revolves around various members of the Roy family and its network having conversations with other billionaires and industry leaders. Namely, Logan is attempting a takeover of the Pierce family's media holdings.

At Sun Valley, multiple major acquisitions have reportedly been finalized. Those include a "deep conversation" spotted in 2014 between Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. Verizon then closed a deal to buy Yahoo for $4.5 billion.

Also in 2014, Armstrong apparently began talks with Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam that led to the $4.4 billion AOL-Verizon merger. Comcast acquired a major stake in NBC Universal after negotiations that started at the 2009 Sun Valley golf course.

Read more: Facebook got a shoutout in the latest episode of HBO's 'Succession' — but not the good kind

And in 2013, a few years before Bezos showed up in his vest and short-sleeved shirt, he had two 3-hour meetings with The Washington Post's Chairman Donald Graham at Sun Valley, which led to his acquisition of the newspaper brand for $250 million.

For a flashback to 1995, Disney's $19 billion deal to acquire Capital Cities/ABC happened after then-CEO Michael Eisner bumped into Warren Buffet, and asked whether Disney and ABC should "do something together." Eisner then chatted up Capital Cities/ABC Chairman Thomas Murphy, which got the ball rolling.

Perhaps some attempted deals at Sun Valley went as disastrously as the Roy merger with the Pierce properties, but the overall closed-off atmosphere of the corporate retreats means some Sun Valley secrets have stayed secret.

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