IAC Will Turn Match Dating Service Into a Separate Business

Dec 19, 2013 4:17 pm ET

(Updates with closing share price in fifth paragraph.)

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- IAC/InterActiveCorp, the Internet holding company controlled by billionaire Barry Diller, plans to turn its Match dating services into a separate business with its own chairman, setting the stage for a potential spinoff.

Greg Blatt, IAC’s chief executive officer, will become chairman of the new business, called Match Group, according to a statement today. In addition to Match.com, a popular dating website, the company will include Tutor.com, DailyBurn and IAC’s investment in Skyllzone. Sam Yagan, who is currently CEO of the Match division, will continue that role at the new company.

The move is meant to bring a sharper focus to the sprawling Internet empire assembled by Diller, the former television executive who helped create the Fox network earlier in his career. It also would make it easier to turn Match into a separately traded company, a strategy he has used before. IAC spun off travel service Expedia Inc. in 2005.

“It seems to be a fairly significant step toward a spinoff of Match or some kind of breakup situation,” said John Blackledge, a New York-based analyst at Cowen Group Inc. “They are effectively aligning the best management resources in the best way possible.”

Shares of IAC jumped 14 percent to $68.49 at the close in New York, a record high. That was the biggest one-day increase since September 2008. The shares have climbed 45 percent this year.

Dating Sites

As part of the changes, New York-based IAC will no longer have a CEO. Instead, the executives in charge of search services and the Vimeo streaming-video business will report directly to Diller, the chairman.

“A less centralized operating structure, pushing talent and decision-making closer to the businesses, is now the best way to achieve our growth objectives,” Diller, 71, said in today’s statement.

IAC acquired full control of Match.com’s former parent company, Ticketmaster, in 2003. Diller’s company retained the dating site when it spun off Ticketmaster five years later.

By gaining users and acquiring competitor OkCupid in 2011, the Match unit’s sales expanded to $713 million last year from $366 million in 2008.

Blatt, 45, has been part of IAC almost as long as Match. He joined the company in 2003 as general counsel after holding the same position at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.

Three Businesses

In his new role, he’ll leave management of most of the dating business to Yagan and focus primarily on Match Group’s other units, such as education site Tutor.com and fitness platform DailyBurn, Blatt said in an interview. While the reorganization is only meant to join similar businesses to help them grow, a spinoff isn’t out of the question, he said.

“There will come a day where I’m sure IAC does spinoffs again,” he said. “We have not made the decision to do that, but of course it is a possibility.”

Along with the new Match Group, IAC will have two other business segments. The search and applications business, its biggest division, includes sites like About.com and Ask.com. It will be led by Joey Levin as CEO. Kerry Trainor, the CEO of IAC’s video-sharing site Vimeo, will remain in his post within the media unit.

If the search and media divisions can grow as individual businesses, they could become potential spinoffs, in addition to Match, said Kerry Rice, a San Francisco-based analyst at Needham & Co. Still, all of them -- including Match -- have to prove themselves first, he said.

“A few years down the line, it would be something that they would consider,” Rice said in an interview. “All those businesses that they have spun off before have been pretty significant.”

--Editor: Crayton Harrison