Life After Liberty: Barry Diller, Chairman and CEO, IAC
Barry Diller needs almost no introduction–he is one of the best-known executives in the U.S., straddling a number of industries, including entertainment, online and retail. Well known, too, for his biting wit and gimlet gaze, he has recently been embroiled in a high-profile battle for control of IAC/InterActiveCorp. (IACI) with major investor John Malone, another noted mogul. What’s been at stake are some of the Web’s most famous names, including HSN, Ticketmaster, LendingTree, Match.com, Ask.com, CitySearch and Evite.
And then there’s Diller’s other company, travel services outfit Expedia, whose shares are surging this morning on market rumors that Diller is planning on taking it private.
- Describing him as “my favorite mogul,” Kara welcomes Diller to the stage. Is that John “Darth Vader” Malone’s light saber jutting out of his back pocket?
- Tell me what happened with Malone, Kara says, referring to Diller’s recent dust-up with Liberty Capital’s (LCAPA) John Malone
- For both John Malone and me, putting our lives in the hands of a judge in Delaware is not a desire of mine. And it was very painful–too personal. For three months my life was completely interrupted. As a friend of mine said to me, when a lawsuit is filed against you, you’re only as good as you were the day before it was filed.
- Kara presses for more details. I don’t think in their hearts our shareholders felt they could overturn the shareholder agreement that had been in effect for so long, Diller says. But clearly, they felt they could shake me up a bit. Kara recalls one shareholder telling her his goals was to “humiliate Diller.”
- “I don’t know how long I’ll be at this,” Diller muses. “Maybe as long as Rupert … certainly not as long as Sumner, however old he is, wherever he is, alive or dead.”
- Diller talking about the difficulties of wrangling employees of a company as large as IAC. Kara: “So what is IAC now?” Diller says come August, IAC will be a series of five different businesses all related to one another through Internet life. He describes IAC as a business-organizing principle.
- Kara asks what benefits that strategy offers. Search engine optimization for one thing, says Diller.
- Shifting gears a bit: What does Diller see himself getting involved in in the future? Diller says he’s been seeking out trouble and trying to solve it, but what he’d like to do is make trouble. “The truth is,” says Diller, “if you have a decent idea and there’s a business model to it, you need to stay with it.”
- Kara asks about the Hollywood writers strike. Diller: Hollywood is a community that’s so inbred, it’s a wonder the children have any teeth. … How dumb can you be to allow a writers’ strike during a time when there’s such a huge play being made for the TV audience?
- Moving on to search. How’s Ask.com doing? Diller: Well, we’re not No. 5 …
- Kara asks for Diller’s thoughts on Microhoo. Diller says one party is very smart, the other not so much. Which is which, asks Kara. Diller: I’ll leave that to you to decide. A few moments later, he says he doubts Yahoo will remain independent.
- Kara asks: Is the Microsoft-Yahoo deal a good idea? Diller thinks it is. That said, he also feels Ask is successful, “Google is irrelevent to Ask” and Ask’s product is superior to Google’s. So take that previous comment with a grain of salt. “For us,” says Diller, “Google is not the issue.” He then goes on to note that Google controls about 60% of the search market in which Ask competes. Diller seems to think that someday, when Ask has increased its queries enough it will get an opening, Google will stumble and Ask will triumph.
- Kara asks about Facebook’s $15 billion valuation. Diller says it’s meaningless, but adds that Facebook is a great service. It’s got nice tools that draw you in and keep you engaged. Diller doesn’t like the term most often used to describe Facebook, though. “Social networks … that’s a dumb-ass phrase if I ever heard one.”
- Diller notes that community, which is what drives Facebook, is what has made TripAdvisor so successful.
- Kara asks about Hulu. Diller dismisses it as a distribution tool. it might become something else, but that’s all it is right now.
- Diller goes from talking about “tools” to “post-tools” and something or other converging with something else. He also mentions that micro-payments will have to be instituted as well.
- Moving on to Q and A: How do you distinguish tenacity from stupidity? Diller: I think there is a certain amount of stupidity in tenacity. Once you get something out in the marketplace there is always going to be someone who takes issue with it. It’s OK to be a little bit stupid, as long you don’t bet the farm at the same time.
A note about our coverage: This live blog is not an official transcript of the conversation that occurred onstage. Rather, it is a compilation of quotes, paraphrased statements and ad-lib observations expeditiously written and posted to the Web as quickly as we were able. It was not intended as a transcript and should not be interpreted as one.