BoomTown is suffering from Rupert Murdoch déjà vu.
Back in July, I actually wrote a post about the head of News Corp. (owner of Dow Jones and this site) in which the first sentence was: “MySpace and Yahoo should merge.”
I was referencing a very interesting comment that Murdoch (pictured here) made in an interview in June of 2007 with Time’s Eric Pooley.
In it, he floated the idea of trading a 25% stake of Yahoo for MySpace.
As the Time article noted:
MySpace’s much smaller archrival, Facebook, is surging: what started as a narrower college site is broadening and accelerating. … But as MySpace showed signs of reaching saturation, Murdoch began very preliminary, exploratory talks about trading the site for 25% or more of Yahoo. ‘Terry Semel was enthusiastic about it,’ he says of the then Yahoo CEO. ‘We were looking to see if it was a good idea. I wasn’t sure.’ Now Semel is gone, and Murdoch needs to see what Yahoo will become under its new boss, co-founder Jerry Yang.”
And as I noted in my post:
In one fell swoop, Murdoch had confirmed the talks, but made it seem as if it was Yahoo’s execs who were desperate to do a deal (and you know Semel and Yang would never talk about how they felt about it), while also giving MySpace an instant valuation of $8 billion at today’s nearly $32 billion Yahoo valuation…
It is no small leap to imagine the sly Murdoch calculating that he should be thinking right about now about getting while the getting is good and the hype is at an all-time high.”
Well, nothing much seems to have changed with the news yesterday that News Corp. was interested in grabbing just under 20% stake in Yahoo in exchange for MySpace and News Corp.’s other online properties in its Fox Interactive Media group.
This is an unusual switcheroo, since, on Feb. 4, Murdoch had publicly said it was unlikely News Corp. would vie for Yahoo. “We are definitely not going to make a bid on Yahoo,” said Murdoch on a conference call with analysts.
It depends on your definition of “definitely” and “a bid for Yahoo,” I guess. Classic rope-a-dope that even Muhammad Ali would admire!
This time the idea is reportedly to value MySpace at $10 billion (which is actually $5 billion less than the $15 billion that Microsoft’s recent $240 million investment gave smaller MySpace rival Facebook).
Of course, such a Yahoo mash-up with News Corp. would likely be a hopelessly complex deal, especially compared to the cleaner and simpler giant-pile-of-cash-and-stock that Microsoft is offering that big shareholders are likely to prefer.
“The only one who would understand such a complicated News Corp./Yahoo tie-up is Murdoch,” said one large Yahoo investor. “It is too much to figure out and not enough clarity compared to Microsoft’s bid.”
In any case, according to The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo CEO Yang supped with Murdoch and News Corp.’s President Peter Chernin last week to talk about the idea.
Presumably, the thinking is the same as I noted more than six months ago:
To merge his massively popular social network with Yahoo’s still-powerful-despite-struggles ad and search empire would create a powerful media and technology giant that would have a lot of key elements for the next generation of Web interaction.
For Yahoo, which is in need of a dramatic move, this would deliver a smack to Google (which still has reportedly not completely closed its $900 million ad deal with MySpace), solve its inability to enter the social-networking space and boost its distribution network dramatically.
For MySpace, Murdoch gets to unload a service that is increasingly going to need a major dose of technology expertise and own a big chunk of what could be a drastically undervalued property.”
The more things change…
Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.