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Tech giants Steve Ballmer, Tim Cook coming to Silicon Slopes Summit in Salt Lake City

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Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer smiles while talking to a reporter during an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Los Angeles

Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

Utah tech advocacy group Silicon Slopes is bringing another tech titan to its annual summit next month.

Just a day after announcing Apple CEO Tim Cook will headline the event, the group announced Friday that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will also be speaking at the conference.

Ballmer, who became friends with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates while they were both attending Harvard University in the ’70s, was an early employee of the software giant, joining the company in 1980. He would go on to rise through the ranks and stepped into the top executive position at Microsoft when Gates vacated the job in 2000. Ballmer would lead the company for the next 14 years.

Silicon Slopes Executive Director Clint Betts said Utah Sen. Mitt Romney played a critical role in bringing Ballmer, who is also the current owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, to the event.

“Steve Ballmer is a legend,” said Silicon Slopes Executive Director Clint Betts. “We’re thrilled to host him at Silicon Slopes Summit and to bring his invaluable insight to our community. Utah is a special place — and this wouldn’t have been possible without Senator Romney’s leadership and stature on the world stage.”

Friday’s news follows the announcement that Cook will take the stage with U.S. Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, for a wide-ranging fireside chat on the opening day of the event at the Salt Palace Convention Center. The hybrid in-person and virtual conference is scheduled for Oct. 13-14.

“Tim is one of the great technology leaders of this generation and we are thrilled to have his insights shared from our stage,” Betts said in a press release statement. “We know Tim has had a great relationship with many in the Utah business community, and are honored to have him play a key role in this event. We look forward to hearing his insights on the evolution and trends in tech, especially at a time when Utah’s tech scene is growing at lightning speed.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook waves to the crowd during a question-and-answer session with members of the Utah tech community in 2016.

Apple CEO Tim Cook waves to the audience during a question-and-answer session with members of the Utah tech community at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Sept. 30, 2016. Utah tech advocacy group Silicon Slopes announced Thursday that Cook will headline its annual summit next month in Salt Lake City.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

A longtime Apple executive, Cook took the helm as CEO in August 2011 just months before legendary founder Steve Jobs died from complications associated with pancreatic cancer. According to his Apple bio, prior to becoming the head of the company, Cook was the chief operating officer and responsible for all of Apple’s worldwide sales and operations, including end-to-end management of Apple’s supply chain, sales activities, and service and support in all markets and countries. He also headed Apple’s Macintosh division and played a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships, ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace.

Before joining Apple, Cook was vice president of Corporate Materials for Compaq and was responsible for procuring and managing all of Compaq’s product inventory.

Lee lauded Cook for his leadership role at Apple, currently the most valuable tech company in the world with a market capitalization over $2 trillion.

“I have known and worked with my friend Tim Cook for years,” Lee said in a statement. “Under his detailed and dedicated leadership, Apple is a hallmark of American growth and innovation.

“I was thrilled to invite him to this year’s Silicon Slopes Summit, and I look forward to welcoming Mr. Cook and introducing him to the Utahns building the future of technology.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has shared why he got the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks to journalists at an event in Logan on Saturday, April 17, 2021.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Lee is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and ranking member on the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. While celebrating Cook’s scheduled appearance at the Silicon Slopes event, Lee has been a forward voice in decrying the outsized economic influence that U.S. “Big Tech” companies have amassed and accused them of wielding market power in uncompetitive ways.

“We have much to address,” Lee said in a release earlier this year. “The actions of Big Tech continue to divide the nation, undermine fundamental liberties and distort the market.

“The Silicon Valley fairy tale of innovation and technological progress sold to Americans has turned into a corporatist nightmare of censorship and hypocrisy.”

Cook appeared before a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on antitrust issues in July 2020 for a proceeding many characterized as “historic” as the Apple chief joined fellow CEOs from Google, Facebook and Amazon for an epic, five-hour grilling by lawmakers.

Even as Apple has found itself embroiled in national conversations and debate about the power of Big Tech, as well as legal battles with Fortnite maker Epic Games and others, the company has continued to crush it in the highly competitive cellphone market, recently announcing the latest line of its popular iPhone. Apple stock was trading just shy of its all-time high on Thursday near the close of regular trading.

While he’s in Salt Lake City, Cook will also attend a fundraising dinner for Encircle, a Utah-based nonprofit that provides mental health services for LGBTQ+ youth. Cook is a co-chairman of Encircle’s funding campaign along with Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith and Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds and his wife, recording artist Aja Volkman, who will all be in attendance at the event. 

Silicon Slopes is hosting the fifth edition of its yearly summit that, pre-pandemic, was seeing a meteoric rise in popularity and attendance numbers and drawing increasingly bigger names among its speakers and presenters. The 2020 summit featured Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and drew over 20,000 attendees.