Barry Diller didn't get where he is by being sweet, and neither did InterActiveCorp, the New York Web titan built in the image of its pugnacious 61-year-old CEO.
The former Hollywood mogul traded in his media and entertainment past and has bought up some of the most successful businesses in the e-commerce world, including Expedia, Hotels.com, Ticketmaster, and mortgage site LendingTree (TREE ) More than anyone else, he has figured out that power flows to Internet middlemen in markets that don't have entrenched leaders. His targets: travel, real estate, and local entertainment. If his company keeps growing at its current pace, it will hit $6.2 billion in revenues this year, bigger than Amazon.com and eBay.
Diller believes that if you harness the Web to round up boatloads of customers, you can get a better deal for consumers while taking a fat slice for yourself. Diller's strategy puts a lot of stress not just on other middlemen but also on IAC's own suppliers -- the airlines and hotel chains. The Internet "pulls [power] away from suppliers and puts it in the hands of consumers," Diller says. "If you direct that demand, it gives you natural leverage." And leverage is something Barry Diller knows how to use.