The following is a transcript of an interview with Barry Diller, IAC and Expedia chairman and senior executive, that aired Sunday, April 26, 2020, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re back with Barry Diller, the chairman of IAC and Expedia Group, which is the largest online travel company. And he invests in a number of well-known online firms that, you know of: Match.com, Tinder, a lot of names that are familiar to consumers. But I want to ask you, Mr. Diller, about your view of the overall economy. You know, the White House says the jobless rate is likely close to 16 percent, but then they say at the same time, the economy is about to bounce back as soon as this summer. What’s the reality you see?
CHAIRMAN OF IAC AND EXPEDIA GROUP BARRY DILLER: There’s no chance. I mean, certainly this summer. I actually think the summer is kind of going to be a petri dish of- of all sorts of things. “Petri” is probably a terrible word to use right now, but there’s going to be all sorts of experimenting going on, and we’ll experiment with what does social distancing mean when there is no real distancing, certainly in the cities? So I think it’s gonna be a period where it’s gonna be a big mess. And by September, possibly I think, you’ll see things, some things economically return. I think people will be going back to work in- certainly by Labor Day. And I think that this- to anyone who thinks that this economy is going to bounce, I mean, you’d have to have the idea of a rubber ball not in existence to think it’s going to bounce high. It can’t. The damage that’s being done is catastrophic.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Catastrophic. What do you think that means? Are you talking about widespread bankruptcies? Are- do we have a handle on exactly–
DILLER: Well of course you–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –how much there is?
DILLER: Sorry, you have to have widespread bankruptcies because you have no revenue, essentially, for an enormous number of businesses. And I think that established businesses- I mean, Expedia, which went- which had basically a $10 billion cost base, went from a day when it would have $250 million in sales to basically zero. What Expedia did, and many other companies have done, is we’ve tapped the pri- the private markets–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
DILLER: –for close to $4 billion, which can get us through, we think, almost any worst-case scenario. But of course, you’re going to have- you’re- you’re going to have a massive amount of businesses that can’t return, businesses that go bankrupt. It’s inevitable. And- and hopefully, the government will, so to speak, pick up the tab, because this is an existential crisis and we shouldn’t worry so much about doing it in a neat way. It ought to be sloppy to get that money out to everybody who needs it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ve heard from travel companies, you’ve heard from United Airlines talk about, you know, having flight attendants wear masks. You’ve heard these ideas thrown out of having people sit every other seat, these experiments saying–
DILLER: That’s crazy–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is crazy?
DILLER: Well look- sorry. The idea that you can take the middle seat out of an airplane and have any kind of, quote, social distancing, is absurd. You can’t. It does not work. Social distancing works when it’s complete. Now, there are some things you can do when you’re not in tight urban areas or in tight capsules like a plane, but that, you know, ensure some more safety. What I’d like to know is do masks work, giving it or getting it? Because if masks work and we’re all ordered to wear them, that’s at least something. But the idea that you can make these small areas or theaters or whatever, actually restaurants, the table six feet apart, I don’t know. What about coming in and going out? What about the waiters who serve you? What about all that? I don’t think any of that makes any sense. But you’re- you know, you’re- you- you can’t believe that the concept of trying- you can maybe clean planes better. Yes, that would be good anyway. But social distancing in these kinds of arenas is a myth.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So who needs to tell you that? Do you need to hear that from the federal government?
MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean, do you think–
DILLER: That’s the thing–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –that consumers just won’t get on planes until the federal government says you have to wear a mask? All these things have to be mandated.
DILLER: Absolutely. I- look the thing is, we’re gonna have to go through a- a different- a new kind of- kind of let’s call it risk calculation. And that’s gonna be based upon levels of what we believe is safe and not safe. And we’re going to have to be told. Now, unfortunately, we have a witchdoctor as a president and he ain’t going to tell us. But the science part of it, I- I think that has to be translated into more practical solutions. So somebody is gonna have to say, yes, you must wear masks, period, or no, take your chances. But the chances are pretty good. There’ll be a teething period where we’ll kind of get used to this. I think, as I say, I think the next couple of months as people who are gonna do it anyway because they ain’t gonna stay in their houses. They can’t stay in their houses or apartments or whatever, forever. We’ll begin to get out there, and we’ll learn some stuff. I think with the mistakes that will be made and all of that and hopefully, some authorities telling us what we can and can’t do. We’ll, you know, by Labor Day, we’ll be out of it, out of it. Yes. So, you know, I do not believe that life is ever changed. I don’t believe that this is going to have- at some point I think this is going to be over. And we humans are going to get back to the life that we had made for ourselves. And maybe we’ll say in some cases it went too fast on environmental issues, etc. But basically we’re all going to get together again. So whatever.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, thank you for your analysis, your reality check. You see a lot of consumer businesses, so it’s an important counterpoint to what we are being told right now. Mr. Diller, thank you very much for your time. We will be right back.