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Barry Diller Has Figured Out the Internet

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When former movie executive Barry Diller started pulling together what would become IACI (IACI - Get Report) in the mid-1990s, the knives of the digerati were out for him.

Diller was seen as just another arriviste, an old-media tycoon who would be out of his depth in the wild, wild west of the Internet.

Concerning most of old media, our assumptions were valid.

Back in 1978 I clearly remember, as a Northwestern graduate student, being taken to "Top of the Week," a private club at the top of the Newsweek tower in midtown Manhattan where the school showed off rising graduates. There we dreamt young journalist dreams of sipping gin and tonics after getting off a plane from the Middle East, our scoops having been handed off to typesetting.

Newsweek, it would turn out, would be one of the digital world's most prominent casualties. Diller, who now believes buying it from the Washington Post Co. (WPO) in 2010 was a mistake, dumped it on International Business Times over the weekend, but it's mainly as a name, not a going concern.

When Newsweek was obtained, the idea was to link it with The Daily Beast, an IAC property headed by former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown. The sale shows something special about Diller among Internet executives -- his relative dispassion, the fact that he doesn't fall in love with what he owns but will chop-and-change for financial advantage.

The IBT, which is privately held, is run by a 29-year old Frenchman named Etienne Uzac, who works out of Newsweek's old offices in the financial district. The magazine Christianity Today says the man behind Uzac is David Jang, a controversial Korean preacher.

But this story is really about Diller, who has, over the years, amassed quite a nice little digital empire.

Diller and his family owned about 40% of IACI when he stepped down as CEO at the end of 2010, taking out Liberty Media'a (LBTYA) stake in the process for cash and two Web properties. He called it "family owned" that year in an interview with TheWrap. IACI today has a market cap of $4.16 billion. Diller is also chairman of Expedia (EXPE).

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