Who says breaking up is hard to do? Barry Diller, CEO of IAC/Interactive Corp., is splitting up his new-media empire into five separate, publicly traded companies. Diller said his $9 billion conglomerate, with 60 brands, got too difficult to explain: "It confuses the markets." That's for sure: In the six months before last week's announcement, IAC shares fell 20 percent.
By next spring, the name IAC will apply only to a collection of websites, including Ask.com, Match.com, and Citysearch. The spinoff companies will be Ticketmaster, LendingTree (mortgages), HSN (the home-shopping cable channel), and Interval, a vacation-booking service. Most analysts see IAC, with its fast-growing Ask unit, as the best bet for investors. "The strongest growth prospects are going to be on the media side," says Aaron Kessler, senior analyst at Piper Jaffray. Only HSN, reportedly the subject of acquisition talks this spring with Liberty Media Corp., owners of rival QVC, is viewed as unlikely to thrive as a stand-alone.