Yahoo: Just Breathe (and Those Rumors Are All True, Except the Ones That Are Not)
Oh, the head spins with all these rumors and counter-rumors and rumors countering the counter-rumors, related to the state of Microsoft’s takeover bid for Yahoo.
With a fast and furious certainty, a tsunami of claims have been crashing ashore over the last week only to be cleared out quickly with the next new wave of certainties.
Let me take a wild guess at the only thing that will be entirely true: That this is all going to take an awful lot longer than the breathless moment-by-moment, life-hanging-in-the-balance tone that has overcome the proceedings.
In any case, let’s review some of the key points in an informative BoomTown Q&A session:
Q: Will Microsoft raise its $31 offer to $35 or $36 after Yahoo’s board rejected it as undervaluing the troubled Internet portal and leaking a $40 figure?
A: Sure it will, especially since major investors of Yahoo think it is a good idea–of course they do!–and they could bring pressure to bear on Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang.
Microsoft has vowed to fight on, of course, because walking away from the deal, although perhaps it should, is not Steve Ballmer’s style at all. “He is a win-at-all-costs poker player,” said one person familiar with his thinking, which should make Microsoft shareholders even more nervous (its stock has dropped since the bid was revealed).
If Microsoft upped the price quickly, the deal would probably get done quickly, as it would be hard for Yahoo to resist, as much as its top execs still want to sell to Microsoft as much as they want to eat worms.
Q: Will Yahoo strike a deal with Google to outsource some of its search-ad business, in order to find a way–any way–to stay independent or just to really up the Google-paranoia factor that seems to inform most of Microsoft’s decisions of late?
The Wall Street Journal reported today that Google’s “enthusiasm has waned” for the idea, because of regulatory headaches. And it is true that the prospect of facing yet another Microsoft-fueled lobbying campaign in Washington, D.C., would be distasteful to Google, whose execs really loathed Microsoft tactics related to its DoubleClick acquisition and took it unusually personally.
Payback is, well, you know! So the choice for Google is either to try to counter Microsoft by striking a deal with Yahoo to solidify forever its lead in the search business or by abandoning the effort and poking relentlessly at the Microsoft-Yahoo union with its own lobbyists.
Lots of Googley fun either way, it seems to me!
Q: What about Yahoo’s alternatives to Microsoft? I thought they were talking about linking up with AOL yesterday? Now today, it’s News Corp. Didn’t both those companies publicly say last week that they were uninterested in making a bid?
A: Grasshopper, when you can snatch the pebble from the hand of the leaky investment banker, it will be time for you to leave.
In all seriousness, much of the noise is actually being generated by all parties (in this case, except from Microsoft, which would like to minimize this kind of talk), most especially Yahoo, as pretending to have other options is kind of de rigueur in these situations.
And, despite their protestations to the contrary, all the companies with an interest in Yahoo–and News Corp. and AOL are the top two candidates–have office buildings full of business-development executives who can’t just see Microsoft grabbing one of the Web’s most trafficked properties and greatest brands without more crunching of those numbers once again.
Either AOL or News Corp. would make sense, as would eBay. AOL has strong content and ad assets (as well as a still-strong brand, even though it has been through the wringer). News Corp. (owner of Dow Jones, which owns this site) has MySpace and some other lesser interactive properties that might be good to fill in the social-networking deficit at Yahoo.
But both would require insanely complex deals, with big doses of private equity money and way too many moving parts, especially compared to the much cleaner Microsoft offer. So I would venture that it would easily win in a face-off.
Q: How will this all end?
A: With a bang? A whimper? A parade? A trip to Disneyland? Here’s one sure thing: All the Yahoo execs, who led the company to this conclusion, will be richer than ever. Perhaps sad, perhaps wistful, perhaps sorry. But definitely richer.
Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.