Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

A Barry Diller sampler from the Reuters Global Media Summit

December 2, 2009

Interviewing IAC chief and media mogul Barry Diller nearly always means that you’ll get more quotable quotes than you can stuff into one article. He didn’t disappoint at this year’s Reuters Global Media Summit on Wednesday. Here are thoughts from Diller on a range of subjects from mergers and acquisitions and Comcast to AOL, MGM and marriage.

Q: What are you going to do with the cash on the balance sheet? What’s the focus? Are you still being cautious?

A: “I’d say we still are. It’s definitely a looming problem. The only thing worse than spending cash stupidly is essentially not to put it down at all, not to do anything.”

Q: What would be the right opportunity to buy something?

A: “There’s no road map here. Anything of size, let’s call it $1 billion plus, is known. … Of the potential availables, nothing seems smart right now.”

Q: What about AOL?

A: “Steve Case came to me … and offered us AOL. In 1992 or 1993, Paul Allen was selling his stake, which was about 25 percent of the company. We were very fresh into buying QVC and overly cautious and missed the opportunity; opportunity since then I’m kind of glad I missed.”

Q: What about selling Ask.com?

A: “I didn’t do that really. Let me say this, I didn’t mean to do it. …

“What I said is, it’s not core to what we do in the future and I don’t think it is core. And I also added one thing which I think was probably a mistake, which is I said we’re more likely to be consolidated than to be a consolidator. That was ill advised. I was trying to say, don’t look for us to be ambitious here and what I should have actually done is not say that all because it’s possible, very much possible, we will be a consolidator depending upon a series of events that are yet to be played out. …

“There is no ‘for sale’ sign on the property as an asset, but if there’s a better configuration for the asset in combination with others, we absolutely will consider it… That doesn’t mean if somebody and threw a gold brick through our window that we wouldn’t look at it. Of course, we would, but I didn’t want to start a process.”

Q: What are your feelings on MGM?

A: “MGM’s just a sad carcass (compared with what it once was. … Yes, on financial terms they may make some sense, but there’s nothing interesting or creative or dynamic about owning a owning a bunch of old films. I’m not saying it’s a bad business. … They’ve been kicking those poor tires for now literally 35 years.”

Q: What about Comcast and its attempt to take control of NBC Universal?

A: “Brian Roberts is the real deal as an executive. He’s both young enough and smart enough and ambitious enough and interesting enough that he could play a profound role in how this (industry) is going to change and evolve.”

Q: What’s your biggest regret?

A: “Not marrying earlier.”

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