Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Actually, It's Not Quite Over Yet for Yahoo

goose

While everyone is putting a fork in Yahoo and calling it done, it might take a bit longer for the troubled Internet company’s goose to be fully cooked.

Yes, the Yahoo board will be meeting today to formally discuss the Microsoft unsolicited bid of $31 a share.

But it will actually be largely by phone and sources tell BoomTown that an actual, in-person, all-day board meeting will take place next Wednesday at Yahoo HQ in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Could the board–long known for its slooooow response time on pretty much every aspect of Yahoo’s business–decide to enter into negotiations with Microsoft or even just towel-throw it in and accept the bid today?

The former is possible, but not the latter. It makes for dramatic headlines to declare the fate of Yahoo in the balance today, but the course of a corporate takeover is usually a bit more plodding than that.

Thus, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his landing party of execs poised to fly down and plant the flag in Silicon Valley might have to wait a bit longer.

bigfoot

It is more likely that Yahoo will take its sweet time in dragging this out a bit longer, in order to either keep looking for alternatives (getting about as easy now as finding Big Foot) or getting a few more dollars out of Microsoft to save face (“Really, we have leverage! Really!”)

This is because, while the rank-and-file at Yahoo are really happy about the bump in stock, most are not about being owned by Microsoft, from engineers to the hundreds of Yahoo vice presidents. And very few at the top levels of Yahoo want this to happen.

This, despite the fact that it has been the moribund management of Yahoo over the last year that has led directly to this sad outcome.

Had CEO Jerry Yang been as energetically exploring its alternatives during the 100-day No-Sacred-Cow Vision Quest overview, including things such as outsourcing of search, making bigger and bolder game-changing acquisitions and mergers (like eBay), cutting staff and focusing its business more sharply, the stock might never have reached levels that gave Microsoft the in it was long waiting for.

Today, as part of that effort to stave off the Microsoft bid, Yang will lay out alternative options–including doing that outsourcing deal for search monetization with Google and making cuts in staff–that the board will mull over.

But the Google threat is just that, claim sources close to Microsoft–a threat that is relatively empty given that it still carries with it all the monopoly issues related to Google’s dominance over the search market if struck. If Google takes over Yahoo’s search business, the thinking goes, it might as well buy the whole company, given that the regulatory headaches are the same.

Google will argue, of course, that an independent Yahoo is free to pick whatever partner it wants, if it decides to outsource its search-ad business, without noting that the pickings are pretty slim.

As to a Google bid, sources tell me the company has little appetite for that battle, even though Google dearly loves to stick it to Microsoft at every opportunity.

Thus, Google will save its poisoned barbs for the daunting approval process Microsoft must go through to finally realize its Yahoo trophy, which will doubtless be a bit more tarnished and banged up when all is said and done.

Of course, let’s be clear, as I posted last Friday in a piece titled “The Inevitable Endgame for Yahoo”: “And while it’s never over until it’s over, let me just say, for Yahoo, it’s over.”

Let me amend that: It’s over, but not until it’s over.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald