CEO Forum: Media mogul Diller on Twitter, Ticketmaster, etc.

A: Go back almost 100 years to the beginning of the motion picture business. They began with "one-reelers." A lot of them were serials. They were at that time anywhere from seven to 10 minutes. Cecil B. DeMille, one of the great movie makers of all time, was making 30 of these a year.

So, I see this little group who are using modern techniques. They're going to graduate as the form evolves just like the movie business did, from two-reelers to 10-reelers. In other words, it will expand as the Internet and bandwidth is able to deliver video that will not just be seen on small little form factors, but on screens in your house or screens of any size.

The economy

Q: The credit markets seem to be easing, but employment looks pretty grim. Have we seen a bottom yet or, as Paul Krugman says, is it just getting worse more slowly?

A: It seems impossible that you could say that we actually know the duration or the depth (of the recession), because there are really three areas that most impact us.

One is unemployment, which is undoubtedly going to rise from where it is now. We have not seen what will happen with commercial real estate, because commercial real estate is primarily based upon huge amounts of leverage.

And the other area we haven't seen is corporate debt, which is also based upon huge amounts of leverage, and those two haven't yet washed through this.

Q: So, what takes us out? Can you count on consumer spending coming back, or would it likely be some other engine?

A: Well, for sure we're going to count on government spending coming back. I mean, they're throwing everything that can be imagined at this. Everything has a very short life span now; we may have this very sharp, quick resolution.

Executive pay

Q: A couple of years ago you were the highest-paid executive in the country. Do you think that, in retrospect, you went too far?

A: It's impossible to justify stuff like that. But here's what happened. In 1992 I left Fox and I joined a company, and that company at the time was losing $70 million. I bought stock with my own money and, because this company was on fumes, I was given an option to buy shares in that company at a price at that time which was very low. That option lasted 10 years, and the company prospered.

And, on the last day of that 10-year period, I exercised that option. And, not that I want gold stars on my head, but I paid the taxes and I hold every share of stock that I got for that. I didn't sell any. Now, that was a gain for me over a 10-year period. However, in the reporting of this, it is reported as if it's in one year.

Q: There's a middle-ground proposal out there called say-on-pay. Shareholders get to express an opinion on compensation. It's not binding. What do you think?

A: I think it's fine. There's nothing wrong with people expressing their opinion. But I think that there's so much misunderstanding here.

I understand the honorable issue of saying: This is too much. And I certainly understand the excess, and I absolutely understand paying people for bad performance is kind of lunatic, and that will stop regardless of a single thing.

Most broad-based shareholder proposals don't go forward because they're outvoted and unwise. That's just the nature of it.

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