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Diller may go public with new e-commerce unit

By MARK ALBRIGHT

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


Media baron Barry Diller says he may take his collection of interactive commerce companies public. As a first step, he wants to buy the rest of Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch.

The USA Networks Inc. chairman and chief executive made the disclosures Friday in explaining a reorganization of the assets in his diverse empire.

The reorganization confirms Diller's vision for deploying the 15 acquisitions he has made since he first took control of St. Petersburg-based Silver King Communications, a group of broadcast TV stations, and Home Shopping Network five years ago.

In essence, USA Networks remains split into the same three business units that slowly emerged in recent years: direct selling; electronic commerce; and TV and filmed entertainment. Diller said he will create a new unit called USA Information and Services reflecting his electronic commerce holdings.

Diller said he may take that unit public. The unit, incorporating several companies that currently trade publicly on their own, had combined revenues of $3-billion in 1999. It includes Ticketmaster, Ticketmaster Online-City Search, Hotel Reservations Network, Styleclick.com, Match.com and Miami-based Precision Response Corp.

Home Shopping will remain the bulwark of Diller's separate retailing unit, now called USA Electronic Retailing. The group had revenues of $1.4-billion in 1999.

Diller recounted Home Shopping Network's key role in the evolution of USA Networks.

"Beginning with Silver King and Home Shopping, we felt that the primitive convergence of telephones, televisions and computers, which allowed HSN to function, would give us great opportunities in what we then somewhat grandly called electronic retailing," Diller said. "Throughout this short but convulsive period, this company has taken its roots in direct selling and related infrastructure and launched new business initiatives together with a series of acquisitions (that are) now beginning to reach critical mass."

USA shares jumped 23 percent in the week before the French-owned conglomerate Vivendi agreed this week to acquire Seagram Co., which owns about 43 percent of USA Networks.

Vivendi executives have been quoted touting Diller as one the savviest entertainment executives and dealmakers they got in the acquisition, but it is not known if he will get a seat on Vivendi's board. USA shares closed Friday at $23.31, up 31 cents.

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