Op-Ed: Irving Kills Barry – By Bob Lefsetz


Barry screwed Malone so Irving used Malone to screw Barry.

Although he's well compensated, Barry Diller is not the seer "The New Yorker" and the mainstream media make him out to be. He's got a ragtag bag of assets over at IAC that yield no synergy to the point where John Malone wanted the business to be run a different way and Barry deconstructed the empire to ensure that Malone couldn't win and Malone sued and lost. Case closed. Or is it?

Barry plays to the press. They're all his buddies. He gives access, he charms them, he shows up with Diane on his arm, it's all so chi-chi. Whereas Malone lives two time zones away in the Mountain West and cares first and foremost about the wallet. Every night you stare at your TV, do you know that no one shaped what you see on the set more than John Malone? Not a household name, but a powerful presence in not only visual media, but satellite radio.

Irving Azoff's a charmer too. And one of the few who can manipulate and backstab as well as Barry Diller. Although Irving's more in the mold of Malone, he's about business efficiency, closing, getting what he wants.

Roger Ames wanted to merge Warner Music with EMI. Then BMG. He couldn't close. The winners are not the theorists, it's those who can close.

In other words, are you sitting at home listening to your music, a dedicated fan, or do you want to be in the business, the music INDUSTRY! If it's the latter, pay attention, because this is how it truly works. Be an intern, work your way up to a junior position in some management company or soon to go out of business record label, think you're getting ahead, but you're not. Because the business was shaped by entrepreneurs who if they worked for anyone else did so briefly, before they went on their own and conquered. It's kind of like being a band. If you want the label to babysit you, if you're not hands-on, paying attention to your business, you're gonna wake up one day to find that not only are you not where you want to be, you're probably broke. This is one area where the Republicans have it right, the old school Republicans, success in the entertainment industry is all about taking personal responsibility.

Irving didn't want to answer to Barry. It's just that simple. Barry was the boss. And being the boss, you get to add your two cents. But Irving can't work for someone, nor does he want to, he wants to go his own way, as one of his management clients so eloquently put it. He needed to make a deal with Ticketmaster in order to gain size and power, this came with Barry, how could he get rid of Barry?

By enlisting the fucked Malone to buy up all of Live Nation's newly-minted stock via a tender offer. Which wasn't wildly successful at first, but it put Barry Diller on notice. And today, Barry Diller resigned his position as Chairman of the Live Nation board. It's clear sailing for Irving and Rapino hereafter.

Of course it's a public company, of course the industry has endemic problems, but whatever solutions Irving can conceive of, he can now act on without worrying about his dad looking over his shoulder.

This is not radically different than Tommy Mottola killing Walter Yetnikoff. Or Doug Morris getting rid of both Bob Krasnow and Mo Ostin. This is where the real game is played, at the elite level.

In other words, are you a worker bee or a big swinging dick? Do you take orders or give them?

The entertainment business will always be about those who give them. It's inherently "what have you done for me lately". No one needs a record or a movie or a TV show like they need food, but concoct something precious and people will beat down your door to consume it. While they're doing the consuming, are you getting paid? How much?

Presently Live Nation is about milking the old acts until the new appear. Can they bridge the gap? Can they deal with the debt? Can they create enough new products with healthy margins to prosper?

Those are the questions. We'll see if Irving has answers.