John Malone’s Liberty Media has bought another 14 million shares of Barry Diller’s IAC, increasing Liberty’s stake in IACI from 25% to 30%.
In a release, Liberty says it “took advantage of recent weakness in IAC’s shares to increase its holding at an attractive price”, and has agreed not to buy more IACI shares until either April 2009 or when IACI finishes its break-up plans. But this is really just a warm-up act for some horse-trading between the two companies. Liberty has been musing publicly about its interest in picking up some of IAC’s pieces, particularly shopping channel HSN and perhaps Ticketmaster.
The deal-making should be interesting to watch and hard to follow. IACI’s structure was difficult to understand to begin with, and since John Malone is involved, any transaction will be rigorously complicated and designed to prevent him paying a penny in taxes. Also, relations between the two companies may be a little bit frayed, as evidenced by Barry’s comments at an investor conference this week. From a partial transcript of his presentation:
Liberty/HSN: Odds on John Malone buying HSN? Barry slightly testy, says you should ask Liberty’s Greg Maffei, “who tends to make statements about Liberty and IAC”. Then rambles on without any specifics. “I’m hopeful but nothing’s happened yet.”
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