February 23, 2011


Goizueta Speaker Series: Media, finance titans share insights

The federal government "completely missed the opportunity to reform the financial system and failed to deal with the miscreants who accelerated the downturn … When something really goes wrong, I think you need a little bit of a public hanging," financier Herbert Allen said to a mostly MBA student audience Feb. 16.

"The interrelationship of these companies [bailed out by the government] and government officials, that's what caused the mess," said Allen, who is CEO of his family investment company Allen and Co.

Allen and media investor Barry Diller were speakers at the Spring 2011 Goizueta Business School Dean's Leadership Speaker Series, moderated by Associate Professor of Finance Jeffrey Rosensweig.

Allen is known for his annual Sun Valley Conference, a summer invitation-only gathering of leaders  in business, particularly in media and digital entertainment and information but also politics, philanthropy and culture.

Diller created the Fox Television Network — not Fox News, as the lifelong Democrat was quick to point out. He is the chairman of travel website Expedia and just relinquished the same title at the company he founded, IAC, a conglomerate of some 50 Internet brands including, evite and The Daily Beast.

Diller said he worries less now over consolidation in the media because "the Internet is beginning to work its creative destruction on those concentrated models."

"I have no clue of seeing around any corner," Diller said of predicting future trends. "I didn't move to what was exciting. I moved to what I was curious about."

He described "what I saw for the first time in the early '90s — a TV screen being used interactively with phones, computers. I thought ‘Wow! What can you do with that?' That's what led me to getting involved in interactivity early."

On philanthropy, Allen said, "Individual small gifts go over well. As it gets larger, you're dealing with more established institutions, it becomes more difficult and you're going to be disappointed. If you give big, write a contract and make it all strings attached. Don't give it on good faith."

Diller said there are things his family gives to institutionally "and the truth is there is no real direct satisfaction because there are so many layers it goes through. No matter what your intent is unless you direct it very specifically. It's not a bad thing. It's just that it's no fun."

Rosensweig asked each for one word for a better life.

"Solvency," said Allen.

"Appetite," said Diller.

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