TITANS OF TECH
A Man Who’s Going Places
Erik Blachford controls half of the online travel market — and Barry Diller’s Net ambitions are riding on his shoulders. So why is the CEO of IAC Travel so relaxed?
By John Battelle, October 2004 Issue
Within Barry Diller’s online empire, InterActiveCorp, there’s no business more vital than IAC Travel — which makes Erik Blachford his most important lieutenant. Overseeing Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire, and other travel properties, Blachford is responsible for 37 percent of IAC’s revenue and more than two-thirds of its profits. Still, even as IAC Travel’s growth has been extraordinary — it’s now the third-largest travel agency in the world — it’s feeling the pressure from any number of competitors, including its suppliers, competing online services, and even portals and search engines. To keep growth going, Blachford is expanding into Europe and Asia and has dived into the $100 billion corporate travel market. But what he’s really dreaming of is re-creating the perfect travel agent online.
Barry Diller was once asked about IAC Travel, and he replied by saying something to the effect of “You think this is the future of travel; I think it’s the future of everything.” Does he see what you’re doing in travel as indicative of the future of the entire Internet?
InterActiveCorp, at the highest level, is just a big bet on consumers using the Internet for more stuff. If you fundamentally believe that the Internet is going to provide people with richer and better information for making decisions, then you have to make bets across a pretty wide variety of things. We’ve got high airline ticket prices, and hotel rooms are expensive, so the dollar figures involved get pretty eye-popping pretty fast, and that’s one of the reasons people like to point to the travel category.
I understand that more than 20 percent of the travel business is now booked online.
It’s closer to 25 percent this year. It’s probably going to around 35 percent by 2006. By the time you get to 2010 or 2011, we think between one-half and three-quarters of leisure and unmanaged business travel — everything not handled by corporate travel agencies, that is — should be online.
With growth prospects like that, why did IAC take a hit in the last quarterly earnings? Why does Wall Street not give it the same earnings multiple as its peer group?
Well, you had a couple of different things going on. On the one hand, the whole category did get beaten up pretty badly. So there is something to be said for people just looking at the overall growth trends quarter over quarter in online travel and saying, “Boy, that didn’t seem quite as quick as we were expecting.”
(continued in extended entry)
]]> Read More