Barry Diller comes out swinging on Expedia call

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Expedia Group chairman Barry Diller on stage at an Expedia event in 2016.
Expedia Group chairman Barry Diller on stage at an Expedia event in 2016. Photo Credit: TW photo by Jamie Biesiada

Expedia Group chairman Barry Diller didn't mince words Thursday when he described the company as "wildly complex, "bloated" and one that "lost clarity and discipline" in recent years.

On the company's most recent financial earnings call, Diller laid out his plan to simplify and focus Expedia going forward.

Thursday's call was Diller's first in some time following a management shakeup at Expedia in December, when then-CEO Mark Okerstrom was ousted from the company. Diller took the reins at that time and has been working alongside vice chairman Peter Kern to simplify what he described as a complex, "bloated" company.

"Not a day has gone by that we have not been engaged in Expedia business," Diller said of himself and Kern.

He's been the chair of the company for nearly 20 years. As such, Diller said he believed he knew a lot about the company, "but there's nothing like being on the ground -- and we've been on the ground."

Under Diller's leadership, Expedia has bought more of its own stock than ever before. He has been attempting to simplify the organization and its strategies and expects between $300 million and $500 million in cost savings as a result.

Diller said he is attempting to correct some past activities that will not benefit the company's business. For example, Expedia is leaning away from its reliance on Google and metasearch and instead is moving to grow its direct business and engender more loyalty with clients.

"I believe in the future of Expedia, as do my colleagues, emphatically," Diller said.

The company estimates a $30 million to $40 million dip in its EBITDA for the earnings period.

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Expedia stock soared more than 10% in after-hours trading Thursday evening following its financial results report.

For the full year 2019, Expedia reported gross bookings and revenue increases of 8%, to $107.9 billion and $12.1 billion, respectively. Net income grew 39%, to $565 million.

In the fourth quarter, revenue increased 7%, to $2.73 billion.

Expedia did not provide specific guidance as to expected growth in 2020 considering the uncertainty of exactly how much in cost savings the company will realize as well as the full effect of the Covid-19 coronavirus. However, the company did say it expected adjusted EBITDA growth in 2020 to be in the "double digits."

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