Diller steps aside at TripAdvisor; sells stake

Last Updated: Tue, Dec 11, 2012 20:00 hrs

Barry Diller is stepping down as chairman of TripAdvisor and selling his stake in the travel-website owner to Liberty Interactive.

Liberty Interactive bought 4.8 million shares of TripAdvisor Inc.'s common stock from Diller and The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation for a total of about $300 million, making it the travel website's new majority shareholder.

Shares of TripAdvisor jumped 8.2 percent to $41.55 in afternoon trading Tuesday.

Diller, a former Fox and Paramount executive, said he has other obligations to attend to.

Diller will remain a director at TripAdvisor, based in Newton, Mass. He also serves as chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp.

Liberty spent $62.50 per share. It now owns and controls 18.2 million shares of TripAdvisor's common stock and 12.8 million shares of its Class B common stock. That's about 22 percent of the equity and 57 percent of the total votes of all classes of TripAdvisor common stock.

Jefferies analyst Brian Fitzgerald said the deal will "makes TripAdvisor's ownership structure less complicated and will potentially lead to more streamlined execution" but won't change the company fundamentally.

The Jefferies analyst kept a "Hold" rating on the stock, saying he was positive about TripAdvisor's long-run prospects but believes the economy and strong competition will hinder it in the short term.

TripAdvisor allows users topost reviews of airlines, hotels and vacation resorts. It gets revenue from advertising on its websites, which include airfarewatchdog.com, bookingbuddy.com and virtualtourist.com. It was spun off from Expedia Inc. in 2011 in an initial public offering of stock.

Greg Maffei, Liberty's president and CEO, called TripAdvisor a leader in the travel industry and said the increased investment in the company will be a strong addition to Liberty's portfolio.

Liberty Interactive Corp. owns shopping websites like the QVC shopping channel and also invests in other companies.

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