Updated June 9, 2022

The man with the flair...

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 don't lack imagination... Especially when they have the means to match. Hold on to your hats!  
Barry Diller. Doesn't that name ring a bell? And yet...
Born in San Francisco in 1942, Barry Charles Diller joined Paramount by chance, rising 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 has a flair like no other.
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 Beverly Hills Cop. And that's just the beginning!
In October '84, Barry moved to Fox Inc. for 12 years. This company encompassed the Fox Broadcasting Company and, above all, the mighty 20th Century Fox. And it was here that he would have his second great inspiration: to give the green light to Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, a series that continues to be a hit today, with new episodes released regularly. And yet, a cartoon with yellow characters and strange voices was no easy task. So much for our man's flair ... and it's far from over!
Diller continued his brilliant career in the media, 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 asTripadvisor and Hotels.com, that tells you the level of the jewel. In fact, Barry Diller was the highest-paid executive of 2005, according to a New York Times report. With a total of
295 million dollars. Not bad, eh?
Finally, on the private front, in 2001 our billionaire married the renowned Belgian fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, née Diane Halfin. She is the descendant of a Jewish family from Bessarabia, and a talented businesswoman, a regular in the society columns and People among the People of the international magazine press.
So much for our man: successful career, beautiful marriage, fortune estimated in billions... all is well! But the interesting thing about Diller is what he does with his money. While others invest in stone, art, gold, etc., he's building an artificial island. That's right, that's right! And since he's not in the habit of doing things by halves, he's thought big. Judge for yourself: in concrete terms, it's a public garden, elevated from 3 to 18 meters, located on New York City's famous Hudson River.
Two walkways provide access to the site, which is open to the public. The one-hectare garden is surrounded by tulip-shaped basins, large flower pots and trees. Just classic!
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 amount to $380 million.
What Diller passes off as a gift to New Yorkers (and his tourists) seems a little like the whim of a man who doesn't quite know what to do with his money. So, of course, we all agree that he does what he wants with his money. But if he's in need of ideas or inspiration, we'll have some for him. For there, for here and... for elsewhere!
Want to know more about this incredible story? Go to the LOBBY 55 magazine page-turner. 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...