Barry’s back: Expedia chairman Barry Diller opens up on hour-long earnings call — here’s what he said
Follow-up: Layoffs looming at Expedia? Diller looks to simplify ‘bloated’ company, aiming to save up to $500M
BY TAYLOR SOPER
This earnings call was going to be different from the outset.
“I haven’t been on one of these analyst calls in I don’t know, [an] endless amount of time, so I’m probably a bit raggy,” Expedia Chairman Barry Diller said on Thursday. “But I won’t ask your indulgence. I’ll just kind of plunge in.”
For the next 56 minutes, Diller took center stage as the media mogul opened up about the future of Expedia.
It didn’t seem to hurt investor perception. Expedia shares were up 10 percent in after-hours trading following its fourth quarter earnings report.
Diller and vice chairman Peter Kern took over day-to-day operations at the Seattle-based travel giant after the abrupt resignation of former CEO Mark Okerstrom and CFO Alan Pickerill on Dec. 4.
Expedia stock rises 10% as travel giant cites focus on core operations following executive shuffle
At the time, Diller cited a strategy disagreement between the top executives and the board over efforts to unify the company’s brands and technology. The shakeup came a little more than two years after Okerstrom was promoted to the CEO role, succeeding Dara Khosrowshahi after he left to become Uber’s top executive.
Diller shed more light on the changes at Expedia, and also talked about the impact of Google, Airbnb, coronavirus, a potential CEO search, and other issues affecting the $17 billion company.
He seemed to genuinely enjoy the discussion. At one point, when the call operator cut off an analyst who was trying to ask a follow-up question, Diller stepped in. “No, you can go ahead, what did you want to add?”
“I appreciate that, Barry,” the analyst said.
Diller was rather blunt throughout the call, describing Expedia’s organization as “bloated” and calling HomeAway a “dumb name.”
Diller, chairman of Expedia for nearly two decades, began with what appeared to be an off-the-cuff opening statement that reflected his optimism for the company in the wake of its recent executive shuffle. He’s spent the past two months “on the ground” with Expedia leadership, learning the ins and outs of the business, and figuring out what needs to change.
The 78-year-old shared something he heard recently that has “rang in my ears.” It was an anecdote that in Seattle, for employees at Amazon the work-life balance mantra was “all work and no life,” whereas at Expedia it was “all life and no work.”
“Now that’s an enormous exaggeration. We’ve got wonderful people in the business and this is not damning our employees,” Diller said. “But for several years we really lost clarity and discipline. So we’re changing a great deal. We’re stopping this too large complexity. We’re simplifying our strategy. We’re stopping doing dumb things and starting to do what we think are good things.”
Added Kern, who was also on the call: “We’ve learned a ton in the last two months. We’ve seen some great people and great things. And we’ve seen a fair bit of wasted energy and calories going into things that may not have promise, and may not get us to the promised land. And certainly we have not learned and been agile enough and willing to say no to things and willing to acknowledge failure when it happens.”
Read more from GeekWire.com