Media mogul turned 'Net tycoon comes out on top with crafty deals

Barry Diller knows TV and movies, home shopping and online mortgages.

And he knows how to turn a buck, with the media mogul turned ‘Net tycoon earning not one but two salaries last year: There was about $4 million in base pay and bonus from his flagship IAC/InterActive Corp., plus $700,000 from Expedia, which was spun off from IAC into a separate public company.

He also realized a hefty $464 million in value from exercising stock options in the two companies, according to SEC filings.

It means he used options granted him some years ago to buy stock. The options were expiring, and Diller apparently still holds the shares. But there’s a sweet gap between the price he paid to buy them and the current market value.

IAC stock has bounced around as investors ponder its moving parts — from Lending Tree to Ticketmaster to Ask.com — and its many previous monikers, from USA Networks to HSN and Silver King Communications.

Under any name, Diller usually comes out on top.

His crafty deals with Seagram and Vivendi are among the savviest of the past decade.

In 1998, he bought USA Networks and Sci Fi from Seagram chief Edgar Bronfman Jr. for $1.2 billion in cash and a 45% stake in HSN. Three years later, Seagram had merged with Vivendi and he sold the bundle back to Viv U topper Jean-Marie Messier for $10.3 billion — retaining enough of an interest to be a persistent irritant to Vivendi and U’s next owner, GE.

Vivendi paid IAC $3.4 billion to buy back its 5.4% stake in Viv U Entertainment. It paid Diller $275 million to take out his personal 1.5% stake in VUE.

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