Updated Some 300 business undergrads and MBA students at Washington University in St. Louis were treated to the Barry Diller show Monday afternoon, when the IAC (NSDQ: IACI) chairman and CEO was interviewed for the USA Today CEO Forum series by the paper's senior media reporter David Lieberman. After the requisite talk about the economy, Lieberman asked what Diller was going to do with all the cash his company has amassed (nearly $2 billion). Diller's reply: "I'd like to spend it intelligently, that would be the first desire. You can't have it get hot in your pocket. ... Unfortunately, I cannot find anything that is worth buying today."
It's either overpriced or something he doesn't want. As for the money, "If we can't figure out what to do with it we'll just [distribute] it to our shareholders, which would be a failure." What is looking at? "You have to redefine what the area is so you continue to grow so we're expanding outside the internet." (Knowing he's in the town Anheuser-Busch helped build, Diller said beer bottling isn't on the agenda yet.) Lieberman tossed out some usual internet suspects: AOL? Twitter? Facebook?
AOL: "We talk with AOL (NYSE: TWX) a lot and there's a lot of common relationships there. ... It is a really good idea for a combination but it's complicated to do. It's inside Time Warner, which would like to get rid of it (it's said politely) but it's hard to engineer."
Twitter: "I have no interest in Twitter. I'm sure there are some commercial applications of Twitter but they don't really interest me." He added: "I'm not really interested in Ashton Kutcher's daily walks. I know some people are."
Facebook: "We couldn't buy Facebook. Nobody can buy Facebook now." Diller mentioned Microsoft's efforts to make Passport into a universal ID, adding that Facebook is in a position to do it: 'Facebook Connect (is becoming that). Facebook may be the place that organizes everybody's personal information."
Net neutrality: Diller spoke passionately about net neutrality, which soon could be under the purvey of his former IAC exec Julius Genachowski, who has been nominated by President Obama to chair the FCC. What does Genachowski think about the subject? "You'll have to ask 'Chairman' Genachowski. He's a smart person. Of course, he would agree." But Diller refused to say whether he and Genachowski have discussed the subject.
Diller doesn't have a problem with the idea of charging for broadband by bandwidth usage but only if it's common carrier, treated like a utility: "The idea of charging for usage is a good idea. The problem is if there's too little competition, the concept is ridiculous."
By Staci D. Kramer