Updated on 9 June 2022

The man with a nose for things...

By Shana Devleschoudere
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As part of our series on different (and new) ways to invest your assets, this week we're going to find out that some people are not lacking in imagination... Especially when they have the means to match. Hold on to your hats!  
Barry Diller. Doesn't that name probably mean anything to you? Well, it does...
Born in 1942 in San Francisco, Barry Charles Diller joined Paramount, somewhat by chance, and rose through the ranks to become CEO between 1974 and 1984.
It was at this time that he made his first big moves because, as we shall see, our man had a flair like no other.
Indeed, under his direction, the studio produced such TV hits as Taxi and Cheers, as well as films such as Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Cop of Beverly Hills. That's it!
In October 1984, Barry changed his tune and took over the management of Fox Inc. For 12 years. This company includes the Fox Broadcasting Company and, above all, the very powerful 20th Century Fox. And that's where he got his second big inspiration: giving the green light to Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, a series that is still going strong today, with new episodes coming out regularly. However, a cartoon with yellow characters and strange voices was not an easy task. When we told you that our man had flair ... and it's far from over!
Diller went on to have a successful career in the media, most notably at USA Broadcasting. In the 2000s, he became president of Expedia. Again, this name probably doesn't ring a bell, but if we tell you that this group owns platforms such as Tripadvisor and Hotels.com, that tells you the level of the jewel. By the way, Barry Diller was the highest paid executive of 2005, according to a New York Times report. With a total of
295 million. Not bad, eh?
Finally, in terms of private life, in 2001 our billionaire married the renowned Belgian fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, born Diane Halfin. She is a descendant of a Jewish family from Bessarabia, and a talented businesswoman, who is a regular in the society columns and People among the People of the international magazine press.
So much for our man: great career, great marriage, fortune estimated in billions... all good! But what's interesting about Diller is what he does with his money. When some people invest in stone, in art, in gold, ... he builds an artificial island. And yes, you read that right, just that! And as he is not in the habit of doing things by halves, he has thought big. Judge for yourself: in concrete terms, it's a public garden, elevated from 3 to 18 metres, which is located on the famous Hudson River in New York City.
To access the place, where anyone can go for a walk, two footbridges are available. The garden, of about one hectare, is wrapped in basins, which are meant to be tulips, large flower pots and planted with trees. All in all, a very classical garden!
And the other figures make the head spin: Diller's foundation has spent no less than 260 million on the project, to which must be added the upkeep of this small park, which it has undertaken to support for 20 years: in all, this will make 380 million dollars.
What Diller passes off as a gift to New Yorkers (and his tourists) seems a bit like the whim of a man who doesn't quite know what to do with his money. So, obviously, we all agree, he does what he wants with his money. But if he's short of ideas or inspiration, investment ideas, we'll have some for him. For there, for here and... for elsewhere!
Do you want to know more about this incredible story? Go to the page-turner of LOBBY 55 magazine. In the meantime, if you want to relax this weekend, take a tour of Robinson Island, in the Bois de la Cambre. Except that this is not a "private initiative", as the island belongs to the city of Brussels...