Diller, Allen Offer Business Advice

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Long-time businessmen and thought leaders Barry Diller and Herb Allen kicked off the Spring 2011 Dean's Speaker Series on Feb. 16. PHOTO: Tony Brenner

Graduating students or anyone attempting to move up the corporate ladder have numerous pieces of advice at their disposal — articles, books, mentors… But, two titans of the entertainment and investment industry speaking at Emory this week say old-fashioned hard work may be the best prescription for career success.

Barry Diller and Herb Allen spoke Wednesday afternoon at Emory Law School’s Tull Auditorium. The pair, long-time board members of Coca-Cola and successful businessmen, came to campus as part of the Spring 2011 Goizueta Business School Dean’s Leadership Speaker Series. They spent more than an hour chatting with Associate Professor of Finance Jeff Rosensweig and fielding questions from students.

“You go to work, do your jobs, keep your head down, be loyal and hope you get lucky and someone notices over time. They will. If you’re talented, honest and work hard you’ll find your place,” said Allen, President and CEO of Allen and Co., which has brokered many of the largest deals in the entertainment and sports industries.

Allen also encouraged students in attendance to focus on relationships in college, saying those will pay off along with business acumen and be of life-long value.

Diller, perhaps best known for his work with Fox, agreed.

“The first thing you do is you get there earlier and stay late; you impress somebody,” he said. “It’s not about demonstrating your smarts. That will either come or not… One thing you can absolutely do is be the eagerest in every way you can.”

Allen also serves as a director of Convera Corporation. His company hosts the annual Allen and Co. Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho that attracts names like Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Eisner and Warren Buffet.

Beyond advice for careers, he addressed the audience on business practices and the nation’s reaction to the financial crisis and recession, saying the government could do more to keep the same problems from occurring in the future.

“Unfortunately when something goes wrong I think you need a little bit of a public hanging every once in a while,” he said. “If you wanted [a bailout] from the government I would have treated you the way a venture capital firm would have treated a bankrupt operation that looked like it had promise, but needed money.

“I think we didn’t teach any lessons and we didn’t clean anything up. All we did was let the big get bigger and get rewarded.”

Diller served as Chairman and CEO of IAC from 1995 to late 2010. He served as Chairman and CEO of Fox, Inc. from October 1984 to April of 1992 and was responsible for the creation of Fox Broadcasting Co. in addition to its motion picture operations. He also serves on the boards, of The Washington Post Co. and Live Nation Entertainment.

He sees the way people communicate change on a daily basis from his vantage point in control of many popular Internet sites. But, when it comes to media, intense changes are on the horizon.

“We do have the effects of the Internet which is beginning to work its creative destruction on those concentrated models,” he said when asked about media consolidation. “I think in the next years we’re going to see more of that. I worry less now than I did when it was, essentially, a closed loop.

“It’s begining now to be a big enough, so to speak, market that independents outside of the control of consolodated business of today are able to get their products up, and out and received.”

The pair, which have known each other for more than 35 years, also spoke on topics of philanthropy, corporate boards and management.

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