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From his first brush with television greatness in the mail room of the William Morris Agency through his launching of the FOX television network with Rupert Murdoch to his recent success as the chairman of Silver King, a chain of TV stations, this biography offers a fascinating, all-engrossing portrait of Barry Diller, one of Hollywood's most visionary executives. 12 photos. 300 pp. 20,000 print.
While it requires a substantial stretch of imagination to call Barry Diller America's "greatest entertainment mogul," he is certainly one of the more visionary and driven players in the media marketplace today. He was largely responsible for creating the Fox network, his feel for "product" is superb, and his attention to detail is legendary. No surprise then that his various wheelings and dealings are closely watched as harbingers of the industry's future direction. Like many wildly successful people, Diller skipped college in favor of an early start on his career, rocketing from that great clichéd launching pad, the mailroom of William Morris, to ABC, where he quickly rose through the ranks. From there it was off to Hollywood, where, still in his early 30s, he helped save Paramount. This won him the job of CEO at Fox, where he deftly turned the ailing company into the fourth network. But then came the inevitable falling out with owner Rupert Murdoch, and Diller was swiftly jettisoned. Since his ouster, using the home-shopping channel QVC as his lever, he has tried to work his way back to power. After the failed pursuit of Paramount and CBS, he is now buying up independent television stations with the presumed goal of building another network. All fascinating stuff—but fumbled in Mair's (Bette, 1995, etc.) gawky hands. He has a slim grasp of the telling detail or anecdote, the dead-on quote, the revealing aside. He is also woefully reticent about the notoriously private Diller's personal life.
Mair does have a good, gut feel for the raw and often brutal workings of big business, but his overarching narrative clunkiness undoes him.