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Barry Diller's atypical exit

CEO departures tend to be carefully worded affairs. Their statements often include comments from chairmen or board members about how much heart and soul they've poured into the company. There's frequently an obligatory quote about "spending more time with their family" after years of 24/7 globetrotting as they try to manage a massive corporation. And more often than not, there are comments about all the great accomplishments they've met.

And then there's the statement by Barry Diller, the CEO of IAC/Interactive Corp., who stepped aside Thursday as chief executive of the company he built to become chairman and a "senior executive." Buried in the eighth paragraph of the news release, which focused much more on the equity exchange between IAC and Liberty Media, Diller said, "It's been clear to me for some time that this company needs a full time aggressive and aspirational executive in the CEO role."

Maybe Diller was simply detailing from experience what the job requires. Or maybe he was complementing Greg Blatt, the incoming CEO, who has been leading Match.com, an IAC business. At 42, Blatt is fairly young, and certainly has more room for aspiration than Diller, who at 68 has been one of the highest-paid CEOs in the country and has had a career that spanned Hollywood, cable news and the Internet. Presumably, the billionaire isn't wanting for much.

But by saying "this company needs" those qualities in its CEO, readers could easily infer that he thinks the company doesn't have them now. Also odd is the comment that "it's been clear" to him "for some time" that the company is in need of this kind of leader. Unintended or not, the comment will read to some as if Diller hasn't been giving 110 percent, and as if he's known that to be the case for a while.

If indeed he doesn't feel he was fully engaged, with any luck he will be going forward. As IAC's chairman, a "senior executive" and, now, the company's largest shareholder, he'll no doubt be quite involved in IAC's goings on and continue to reap rewards. CEOs may have extremely demanding jobs, but those jobs are also extremely rewarding. And in that sense, Diller is right: Any job that pays out millions of dollars a year should be filled with full-time, aggressive and, yes, aspirational executives.

(Disclaimer: Diller is on The Washington Post Co.'s board of directors.)

By Jena McGregor

 |  December 2, 2010; 12:58 PM ET |  Category:  CEO watch , Corporate leadership , Personal Leadership Journey , Succession planning Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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