The New York Times asks the question whether one-time Hollywood mogul Barry Diller — presently chairman & CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp (electronic retailing, Internet and interactive media, local media services, online personals, real estate and financial services) — is the highest paid chief executive in America. Well, business reporter Geraldine Fabrikant says it depends on how you figure his wealth. “Diller was not on the lists earlier this year because his company filed its proxy after most of the initial surveys, based on samples of a few hundred companies, were done. But one recent study that looked at a broader universe of companies estimated his total compensation last year at $295 million — while another recent survey — using a different calculation — figured he was paid $85 million.” If it makes you feel better, Diller’s salary at IAC/Interactive last year “was a relatively modest $726,115” and supposedly did not draw a salary or receive a bonus in some of the early years of the company. His much more exorbitant payout was in the form of stock options. “In all, Mr. Diller reaped $469.7 million last year from salary, bonus, other perks and the exercise of existing stock options at IAC/Interactive and Expedia.” Story fronts NYT Business section for Thursday as part of its ongoing Guilded Paychecks series. (And, to think, I remember the days when Diller used to complain bitterly to his pals about working for cheapskates Marvin Davis and Rupert Murdoch at Fox.) My question is: Have IAC shareholders done as well as Barry? Diller tells the NYT his compensation was appropriate, considering “the wealth created for shareholders over the last 11 years, me certainly among them.” Earlier this month, Motley Fools’ “Fool On The Street” column was high on Diller and his built-by-acquisition company: “Since acquiring the former AskJeeves search engine in March of last year, and the successful relaunch of Ask.com earlier this year, IAC has experienced a financial renaissance of sorts.”
Interestingly, though Diller’s financial info came too late for the Forbes 400 list of U.S. wealthiest, he was interviewed this week by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner at the Forbes MEET 2006 confab held at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Diller took the opportunity to snipe at his ex-Old Media colleagues. Eisner asked if Diller saw old media absorbing most of the new media companies in a panic, “All of these companies were based upon being dictatorial and telling people how they would do business with them,” Diller replied. “As they get more diversified they get less well managed.” Meanwhile, to put Diller’s New Media $$$ into Old Media perspective, remember that Viacom’s recently fired Tom Freston, a 25-year company veteran who oversaw the Paramount Pictures film studio and the MTV and BET television networks, is to receive severance payments of $58.9 million, the media company disclosed in a regulatory filing. Freston also reached a deal with Viacom to serve as an adviser to the company for the next three years, for which he will receive an additional $1 million per year, an arrangement he can cancel with two week’s notice. In addition to the termination payments, Freston will also receive $7.4 million in deferred compensation and $5.7 million in a retirement account, according to the filing. The payments consist of his salary, target bonus and deferred compensation from the time he resigned through June 30, 2009. So that’s a heckuva golden handshake worth nearly $85 million — what Diller earned last year if the lower number is to be believed.