The Report: Barry the Brawler

57 REP Barry Diller Illustration
AP Photo/Rob Carr

Mogul vs. mogul! IAC battle is only Diller’s latest bout.

Stepping down as CEO of IAC on Dec. 2 meant more for Barry Diller than simply exchanging a title for more control of his company. By beefing up his shares in the interactive conglomerate, Diller, 68, also rid himself of interference from Liberty Media’s John Malone and Greg Maffei, shareholders and longtime nemeses. It was the most recent boardroom tussle for the mogul Forbes says is worth $1.2 billion, largely because he has never been afraid to butt heads with Hollywood’s most powerful. How’s his scorecard so far?            

1974: Diller vs. Bluhdorn

Matchup: Gulf + Western’s Charles Bluhdorn was so impressed with how Diller negotiated as an exec at ABC that he wanted him to run Paramount Pictures. Diller didn’t like the deal and refused several times, finally agreeing when he was given the salary and autonomy he wanted.

Winner: Diller. He soon brought over Michael Eisner from ABC to be his No. 2 for a long, successful run at the studio.

1982: Diller vs. Gordon 

Matchup: Larry Gordon was a hot producer at Paramount after 48 HRS. hit big. But when he shopped his next script, Diller and his lieutenant Eisner became angry
and had Gordon evicted from his plush headquarters on the lot.

Winner: Diller. He went to Fox in 1984 and found Gordon was a top exec there. Within a year, Gordon was out.

1984: Diller vs. Davis

Matchup: With Diller’s support, Martin S. Davis took over the parent of Paramount after Bluhdorn died. Davis then undercut Diller and his lieutenant Eisner, who ran the studio, saying they didn’t share profits enough with fellow executives. Davis demanded that Diller fire Eisner.

Winner: Draw. He forced Diller and Eisner to quit but lost a storied management duo.

1984-87: Diller vs. Davis 

Matchup: Marvin Davis hired Diller to run 20th Century Fox, giving him a contract that guaranteed autonomy. But when Diller required executives to inform him when they had conversations with Davis, the billionaire balked, causing a prolonged feud.

Winner: Diller. He stood his ground, and Davis later sold the studio to
Rupert Murdoch.

1984: Diller vs. Eisner 

Matchup: Eisner was recruited by Diller to join him at Fox as his No. 2 again. Diller thought they had a deal; instead Eisner went to Disney as CEO.

Winner: Eisner. He also took Jeffrey Katzenberg and other key Par execs. 

1992: Diller vs. Murdoch

Matchup: Murdoch was pleased that Diller revamped the studio and launched the Fox network, but he refused to share equity ownership as Diller demanded, so Diller quit.

Winner: Murdoch. News Corp. kept the studio and network.

1994: Diller vs. Malone & Roberts

Matchup: John Malone and Brian Roberts brought Diller aboard to run QVC in 1992 and backed his bid for Paramount. But when Diller used the company to try to acquire CBS Inc., Roberts strongly opposed the bid and made a play for QVC, killing Diller’s effort to buy the network.

Winner: Malone and Roberts. They kept the shopping channel, and Diller left QVC in 1995.

1994: Diller vs. Redstone

Matchup: Viacom mogul Sumner Redstone battled Diller for Paramount in an epic hostile takeover. By the end of the war, the price tag for the studio had risen to more than $10 billion.

Winner: Redstone. He got Paramount for Viacom.

1998: Diller vs. Bronfman Jr.

Matchup: Edgar Bronfman Jr., whose Seagram had taken over Universal Studios, sold cable networks USA and Sci Fi Channel — along with Universal’s domestic TV interests — to Diller for $4 billion.

Winner: Diller. He made a fortune off the deal. In 2001, he sold the TV stations to Univision and merged the TV group back into Universal, which had been acquired by Vivendi.

1998: Diller vs. Rosen

Matchup: Diller’s USA Networks acquired all of Ticketmaster, which had been run since 1981 by Fred Rosen. The two men clashed.

Winner: Diller. Rosen was forced out. 

2005: Diller vs. GE/NBC Uni

Matchup: General Electric/NBC Universal execs became frustrated by Diller, who held a minority stake in the company. When 80 percent of Universal was acquired by GE, Diller quickly became a major obstacle to completing the deal.

Winner: Diller. He played hardball and was bought out for $3.4 billion.

2007-08: DIller vs. Malone

Matchup: Malone made Greg Maffei CEO of his Liberty Media, a big shareholder of IAC. But Maffei and Diller butted heads, and in 2007, Diller announced plans to split IAC into five companies. Liberty later sued, arguing that Diller would dilute its shareholders’ voting power. Diller called them “insane.” Liberty’s suit sought to remove Diller and his allies from the IAC board. The judge ruled for Diller. A year later, Diller and Malone reached an uneasy cease-fire.

Winner: Diller.

September 2010: Diller vs. Malone II

Matchup: Malone, Maffei and Irving Azoff forced Diller out as chairman of Live Nation following a power struggle over control of the music giant after its merger with Ticketmaster.

Winners: Malone, Maffei and Azoff.

December 2010: Diller vs. Malone III  

Matchup: After three years of negotiations, Malone allows Diller to buy him (and Liberty) out of IAC. The deal is tax-free for Liberty shareholders (Malone is the largest). Diller loses the CEO title but retains his chairmanship and increases his voting share.

Winner: Diller in a TKO. Diller gets autonomy at IAC and controls enough stock to call the shots.