A Fight from Liberty, a Spike in Foreclosures

Liberty Media moves to oust Barry Diller from IAC/InterActive. Home foreclosure filings jumped 75 percent last year, with Nevada topping the chart. And music site Qtrax discovers the virtue of patience.


Liberty Media takes aim at Diller

Liberty Media asked a Delaware court to let it take control of media and Internet conglomerate IAC/InterActive Corp. and oust IAC chairman and CEO Barry Diller, along with six allies, from the board. The move marked a steep escalation of a fight between Diller and Liberty chairman John Malone over Diller’s plan to split IAC into five units. (Bloomberg) Liberty owns about 30 percent of IAC, but controls 62 percent of its voting shares; under a long-standing deal, Diller gets to vote Liberty’s shares. (Reuters) Malone accuses Diller of structuring the spinoffs to dilute Liberty’s voting power. (BusinessWeek.com)

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Foreclosure filings up 75 percent last year

RealtyTrac reported that home foreclosure filings rose 75 percent in 2007, to 2.2 million, as people increasingly fell behind in mortgage payments in the last three months of the year. In December, foreclosure filings rose 97 percent from December 2006. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) Nationwide, the foreclosure rate rose to about 1 percent of households last year; Nevada was hit the worst, at 3.4 percent, followed by Florida and Michigan. (Reuters) Following yesterday’s news of a 26.4 percent drop in 2007 new-home sales, with a 4.7 percent slump last month, December marked “a lousy end to a lousy year,” said Mission Residential chief economist Richard Moody. (MarketWatch)

Legg Mason lands on new CEO

Legg Mason, the second-largest publicly traded money manager in the U.S., named company executive Mark Fetting as president and CEO, effective immediately. Fetting replaces Raymond “Chip” Mason, 71, who founded the firm in 1962 as Mason & Co. (Bloomberg) Legg Mason, with $1 trillion under management, has lost a third of its value in the past year, as investors abandoned its mutual funds. Analysts say the leadership transition could be rough. “The nice thing about someone with their name over the door is the stake they have in the business’s success or failure,” said Charles Elson of the University of Delaware’s Center for Corporate Governance. (The Washington Post, free registration)

Qtrax jumps the gun

The online music site Qtrax on Sunday launched what it said was the first legal Napster-like free music file-sharing system that had all four major record labels on board. The lavish launch party in Cannes, France, featured James Blunt and LL Cool J. The only problem is, Qtrax didn’t have final contracts with any of the labels, so the site had no content. Shares of Qtrax’s parent company, Brilliant Technologies, fell to 5 cents yesterday, from Friday’s 9.2 cents, erasing $35 million in value. Qtrax blamed mixed signals. “It’s going to be tough for them to recover from this,” said former EMI executive Ted Cohen. (Los Angeles Times, free registration)

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