Barry Diller

Barry Diller, the IAC overlord who has spent years attempting to sell the world on the idea of an internet conglomerate, now admits that conglomeration was a bad idea from the start.
In a long profile by Duff McDonald (who is possibly the best business profile writer working today) in the new issue of Portfolio, Diller says: “We were kidding ourselves if we thought we could pull off an integrated conglomerate that acts like G.E. or P&G in anything less than 10, 20, or 30 years.” His plans now include “blowing up IAC and leaving the company’s disparate parts to operate on their own,” according to the Duffster.
Although the tech-oriented Web 2.0 kids are likely to herald this as a triumph for independent, niche, small-is-wonderful tech companies with important lessons for deals such as Electronic Art’s proposed acquisition of Take-Two software, we can’t help but be struck by how much of the failure of IAC is part of the much larger mortgage story. IAC bought online mortgage middleman Lending Tree, familiar to many of our readers from its once ubiquitous ads on CNBC, for $726 million in 2003. Last year, IAC wrote down the value of LendingTree by $475.7 million. With the mortgage market still face-down and floating in the seas of plummeting real estate prices and tight credit, there’s likely to be even further write downs. For a company with under $13 billion in total assets, that’s an enormous amount to lose on single asset.
Of course, we can’t help but wonder if the proposal to slip of IAC and Diller’s newfound love affair with “anti-conglomeration” isn’t a contrary indicator. If Diller is short, is that a signal to go long conglomeration? That’s one way to read the position of Liberty Media, the Malone family controlled corporation which owns 62 percent of the voting power in IAC and is locked in litigation with Diller to prevent the break-up of the company. Of course, Liberty Media’s stock performance pretty much tracks IAC’s—both have consistently underperformed almost any broad stock index you can name—so we’re not sure we’d want to follow their lead on anything.
The Confessions of Barry Diller [Portfolio]

barrydiller2.jpegWe sort of suspected that Barry Diller might agree with us that a lot of the sound and fury raised against executive compensation gets things exactly backwards–many of executives of public companies probably aren’t paid enough. And the fact that the Corporate Library awards IAC/InterActiveCorp a grade of ‘D’ on corporate governance was probably a good sign that the fetish for procedural governance isn’t high on the list of things that turn Barry on. But it was nonetheless a pleasant surprise to see Barry this morning throwing a couple of jabs at the corporate governance types, the New York Times and Gretchen Morgenson.

The chairman and controlling shareholder of the Internet media conglomerate singled out governance research groups as well as the business page of The New York Times, which he said had a “loony” view of executive pay.
He also said he had no use for the cottage industry of compensation consultants who advise boards of directors…
Diller said he found “the whole issue of executive compensation and particularly the policy of The New York Times business section toward executive compensation … absolutely loony.” He singled out, in particular, business writer Gretchen Morgenson, who often writes about executive pay and corporate governance.


Larry Ribstein
call your office. Barry Diller’s a fan! (Or should be, since Larry is one of the best critics around of Morgenson.)

Diller derides investor watchdog groups
[Reuters]

Mike Eisner: ‘Hey. How Did I Get Dragged Into This?’

a lovely pink floral model costing $5.jpgBarry Diller took home $469 million last year and Times op-ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, for one, is not happy about it. Which is why he’s awarding Mr. Diller with an ‘Eisner,’ an idea we’re pretty sure he stole from the people that brought you the Razzies.

Just think! If you’re capable of running a company only a little worse than the average C.E.O., then Mr. Diller thinks you’re worth almost half a billion dollars!
So I’m delighted to announce that Mr. Diller is this year’s winner of my Michael Eisner Award, given annually to commemorate the former Disney chairman’s pathbreaking achievements in corporate rapacity. The winner of the Eisner award receives a shower curtain — this year it’s a lovely pink floral model costing $5 — in honor of the $6,000 one that Tyco’s shareholders purchased for their former C.E.O.

America’s Laziest Man? [NYTimes]