Reuters blog archive
from Jack Shafer:
Barry Diller runs his company, IAC, like a used-car dealership. That comparison is meant to disparage neither Diller nor used-car lots but to capture the shark-toothed, high-velocity, unsentimental manner in which Diller conducts business. How many photos of Diller have him wearing the fake grin of the car salesman, the one that says "I'm your friend until the deal is done or abandoned, and then you're just another future mark to me"?
The vehicle on the market eliciting Diller's deal lust this week is About.com, the content farm owned by the New York Times Co. After word leaked that the Times Co was about to sell the site to Answers.com for around $270 million, my Reuters colleague Peter Lauria reported that Diller was bidding "in excess of $300 million" to nab it for his Internet portfolio. Given Diller's wheeler-dealer instincts, that was probably a soft offer. Lauria promptly tweeted a pair of qualifiers to his piece, noting that if Answers.com dropped out of the deal, IAC might cut its bid. "That's dealmaking 101," Lauria tweeted. "Diller knows this better than anyone."
Lest you think I belabor the used-car-dealer metaphor, give a gander at the array of properties populating the IAC lot. Some, like Match.com, look like real businesses the way a BMW looks like a real car. Others, like Vimeo and Ask remind you of YouTube and Google the way Infiniti and Acura are supposed to remind you of Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Properties like ShoeBuy.com are the "beaters" on the lot, unglamorous Toyotas that should trundle on forever, while SportsPickle.com, Excite, and Newsweek/Daily Beast resemble rusty Suzukis, Kias and Mitsubishis, resting on concrete blocks.
That's what the latter-day Diller does -- he buys, sells and trades properties like a milkmaid churns butter, forever seeking to create a blend with higher value. And to hear him tell it, he's doing a pretty good job. The stock has more than doubled over the last two years -- up 118 percent -- and it now has a market cap of $4.5 billion. That's no Google ($221 billion), but what is? The latest quarterly earnings report put revenues at $680.6 million, up 40 percent.
Many of you might have forgotten IAC/InteractiveCorp's Daily Beast and Newsweek agreed to merge operations last November to create a new entity called, well... Newsweek. And that would be understandable as it's been pretty quiet till this week's interview scoop with the former IMF chief Dominque Strauss-Kahn's accuser.
IAC Chairman Barry Diller (pictured, right) told Wall Street analysts today that Newsweek has a promising future very different from the floundering Newsweek of recent years. He said under the leadership of Daily Beast founder Tina Brown the weekly magazine is starting to win back advertisers and subscribers.
Asking Barry Diller about Ask.com is not so easy.
The media mogul caused a stir on Wednesday when he said that Ask.com, the search engine owned by his Web holding company IAC/InterActive Corp, has “no value inside IAC.”
The comments, which were made onstage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, generated a wave of blogs and tweets concluding that Diller had given up hope for the No. 4 search engine in the US, which had a modest 3.8 percent market share in August according to comScore.
Unlike many of us, media executives know what it’s like to play around with large wads of cash. So it seemed natural to ask them about what kind of investment opportunities they’re seeing when they gathered in New York this week for the Reuters Global Media Summit.
We gave each media honcho $10 million in hypothetical cash and told them to put the money to work without buying stock in their own companies.
When they meet at the Plaza, they will talk about a ton of different things that their customers, their investors and other readers want to know. I have to apologize for them because they're not letting in any riff-raff. And that includes reporters who get paid to spend all day figuring out how these people decide what kind of entertainment you want, what kind of technology you pay them for and what deals they pursue with the money that you give them when you buy their stock. This event always excludes press, but that's no reason not to highlight what you probably are missing because of this. After all, who wants to wait for the 8-K filing?
Few in the media business know dealmaking better than Barry Diller.
So it comes as little surprise that the head of IAC/Interactive was asked about both the Microsoft-Yahoo deal and the AOL separation during an earnings conference call today. He sounded upbeat on both situations.
Here are some excepts:
One significant thing that happened is we're not going have to talk about whether or not it's going to happen anymore [Ed -Amen to that!]. Look, Microsoft will be able to report a greater share in terms of search and get -- at least in some minds of the talkers -- into being up there in competing terms with Google. And Yahoo doesn't have to spend anymore money on search. As far as being able to execute, that is very complicated.
Allen & Co's Sun Valley media and technology conference forbids journalists from attending the morning sessions that executives and other media power players attend before they go out to play and talk about deals in the afternoon. That means the last, best hope they have is to get the low-down from a journalist who was invited.
There's no pride in it, but at least you hear what happened from a reliable source.
Nearly every powerful media and technology executive you can think of will be camping out in the idyllic and affluent ski resort town of Sun Valley this week. Here are just a few...
Robert Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, Michael Larson of Cascade Investments and Ron Meyer, president and COO Universal Studios arrive at the Sun Valley Inn.
The Bald Mountain resort in Sun Valley offers moguls for advanced skiers all winter long. Media reporters show up every July for the other kind of mogul, who lands among the picturesque Idaho mountains on a private jet and has a name like "Rupert Murdoch" or "Barry Diller."
Reporters are supposed to be part of the scenery -- not part of the conference itself.* They must stand around and hope that one of the more than 200 invitees decides to speak to them, and hopefully dispense a few nuggets of news. Fortunately, this week's weather is supposed to be sunny, dry and warm during the day, and comfortably chilly at night.