Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Bebo=Not Being Bought by Google


That is all.

Wait, not all. The report that it has signed a bill of sale earlier this week that “definitely happened”: It definitely did not.

What is true: Bebo is raising money and it is open to selling and there has been interest. But, in two words: No sale.

Nonetheless, TechCrunch, the popular tech blog that has been gift-wrapping up Bebo, has upgraded the unconfirmed rumor it floated about Bebo’s sale last week. At the time, it estimated the veracity of that rumor at 50%, but has now upgraded it to claiming “this is about as strong a rumor as they come.”

Unfortunately, most rumors are typically about as strong as a twig to begin with, so that’s not saying much. And this one snaps easily with only a little bit of reporting.

Even more fragile is TechCrunch’s assertion that Google is the acquirer–well, to be fair, its post characterizes it as a bet–because of some theory of fitting in with Google’s not-so-hot social-networking effort, Orkut.

Actually, Google has been approached about investing in Bebo and even to look at it as an acquisition, which is an event that happens about 3,546 times a day at Google by all sorts of companies. But Google is, at this point, uninterested in buying Bebo.

(And just FYI, Orkut is not exactly a favorite child at the Googleplex, so spending $1 billion as a gift to it seems a bit of a stretch).

TechCrunch also seemed to imply a nefarious plot in its post: “What’s clear is that Bebo, which is the second-largest social network in the U.K. behind Facebook, either signed a deal, or is sending out false messages that they’ve been or are about to be acquired (which is unlikely given Allen & Co.’s involvement). If misinformation is the goal, we’ve bought it hook, line and sinker.”

Well, we’re not hearing voices and we are not a fish, but here is what is true, based on reporting today and our previous post on the Bebo rumors last week:

Bebo is in the midst of raising a large round of funding with Allen & Co. that values the company at upward of $1 billion. In the course of that, it has prepared a book of information about itself.

Some companies–News Corp., Yahoo, Microsoft, but NOT Google–have expressed interest in looking at the company as a whole, although they are all potential investors too.

The very innovative social-networking company certainly could be sold and sold quickly, and it has long been interested in that option, but is not averse to going it alone. But Bebo, which held a board meeting today, has not been sold and remains independent.

If the company did go in this direction, any good guesser could assume News Corp., Yahoo and Microsoft are the best bets (again, Google would be a long shot). I suppose CBS and Viacom could also be included, but that’s a lot for Sumner Redstone, owner of both companies, to fork over.

And, in any case, Yahoo, Microsoft and News Corp. are probably now too embroiled in the wrangling over the fate of Yahoo to focus on Bebo. To recap, Microsoft made a $31-per-share unsolicited bid for Yahoo. Yahoo rejected it. Microsoft vowed to fight on.

News Corp., owner of Dow Jones and this site, which said it was not likely to enter the fray last week, appears to have changed its tune this week. It is reportedly formulating what sounds like a devilishly complex deal related to its MySpace property that seems most likely to drive Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer into a rage (not a long drive!).

While Bebo’s fate remains the same for now, here’s something I can upgrade into a near certainty: Yahoo is going to get sold.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle