Kara Swisher

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Ross's Revenge!


Who in the Internet sector hasn’t enjoyed the always amusing stylings of Mr. Ross Levinsohn, the high-profile former head of Fox Interactive Media a.k.a. “The Guy Who Bought MySpace for News Corp.”?

Today, he added another song to his silky smooth repertoire as the “Internet guy who dissed Yahoo.”

In a nice scoop, TechCrunch reported that Levinsohn was going to be a nominee to the board that Microsoft (MSFT) has been forming as part its potential proxy fight to take over Yahoo (YHOO).

That’s true, several sources have told me. Levinsohn, who was recruited by Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi, has even filled out paperwork as part of the process.

And once the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed, that makes him the highest profile Internet figure on the board, which is made up of–let’s just say it, shall we?–pretty unimpressive former execs, none of whom has had any substantial Internet experience.

While many well-known Web figures were approached by Microsoft, few in Silicon Valley have been willing to be part of an effort to snuff out an independent Yahoo, one of its most important and iconic brands.

Not so the entrepreneurially inclined Levinsohn, apparently, who has a maverick nature.

He left FIM in 2006, for example, after deciding he wanted to be more than an overpaid employee of Rupert Murdoch and Peter Chernin.

Now, the Los Angeles-based Levinsohn runs an investment fund called Velocity Interactive Group with former AOL (TWX) head Jon Miller. Armed with $1.5 billion, the investment focus of the new enterprise will be on digital media and communications.

Given possible News Corp. (NWS) involvement as a possible partner in the Microsoft deal (more on that later), including a desire by Murdoch to spin MySpace into Yahoo, it’ll be interesting that Levinsohn might now have some power over his former bosses.

Or not. Most expect the board to be a rubber stamp for Microsoft, although several sources say those asked have been told that they can vote in the way they think is best for Yahoo.

Kind of like superdelegates! Except geekier!

Here is a video interview I did with Levinsohn in December of 2007, where he talks about the future of digital media on the Web, as the tech and entertainment industries and its many players seek to figure out how to make the painful digital shift and find new monetization plans that will replace crumbling old-media businesses.

At the end, months before Microsoft’s unsolicited bid for Yahoo was launched, after I asked him what will be coming, the psychic Levinsohn eerily predicted: “Something happening with Yahoo, I think, this year.”

Something indeed.

Here is the video:

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— Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, in their farewell D post