MicroHoo Back From the Dead? Dream On, Jerry!
Like the zombies in “Night of the Living Dead” who will not die, the notion of a big, sloppy deal for Microsoft to buy Yahoo is revived yet again in an article in The Wall Street Journal today.
Unfortunately for both Yahoo (YHOO) and Microsoft (MSFT), it mostly serves to point out once again just how messy and pathetic the proceedings have been and continue to be.
But, as to the central idea, that Microsoft is aching to do a multi-part deal with various partners that would render Yahoo asunder, BoomTown is altogether dubious that this will ever come to pass.
Nonetheless, the very idea of something, anything happening served its main purpose–to buck up Yahoo’s sinking stock, which got a nice pop from the article, after falling below $20 a share on yesterday. (It is now back at $21.55!)
I have argued many times that Microsoft should just make an offer for Yahoo whole, because it has few other such powerful options in its quest to compete with Google (GOOG) in the search space, even given the checkered history and bruised feelings evidenced in the piece in the Journal.
Still, as was posted here earlier this week, Microsoft is considering sweetening a search-ad proposal, including buying a big chunk of Yahoo and improving terms, and News Corp. (NWS), Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL and even Comcast (CMCSA) might enter the picture.
But the idea of engineering a giant Internet group hug among and between these players is a daunting task.
In fact, that plan is an oldie (but maybe not such a goodie)–for Microsoft to buy the search and search-ad assets of Yahoo and for the rest to be spun off into some sort of online content/software/social-networking company and mashed up with assets from either News Corp.’s MySpace or Time Warner’s AOL.
That second company, in a previous scheme, was called “TrafficCo,” which News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch acknowledged in an interview Walt Mossberg and I did with him at the sixth D: All Things Digital in late May. (Murdoch actually says it outright in this video of the interview.)
Clearly, such a deal would be good for News Corp. (owner of this site) and Time Warner, as they try to figure out how to maximize their Internet assets.
And linking them with Yahoo–still, despite all, one of the most significant sites on the Web–might be just the ticket.
But getting there is the real problem, with a very inept board of Yahoo floundering about and with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a bit of a pique over the situation.
Yahoo’s regulatory filing related to its upcoming proxy fight with billionaire investor Carl Icahn, for example, in which the company slapped Microsoft’s behavior in the takeover battle and called it “unresponsive and inconsistent,” really irked the folks at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., HQ.
In fact, the level of dysfunction and crossed signals in the Yahoo-Microsoft relationship, as depicted once again in the article, should give anyone pause.
Case in point, as I noted here: That Yahoo thought it was a good thing to send Yahoo Co-Founder David Filo–think Silent Bob and then think even more silent and of someone very unlikely to support a sale–with Co-Founder and CEO Jerry Yang to the key meeting with Microsoft to negotiate over a possible takeover pretty much encapsulates it all for me.
And then, with Yang offering to sell for $37 a share–while also adding he and Filo wanted $38–even though Microsoft had never gotten past $33, the situation actually worsened, if possible.
That meeting was immediately–within hours–followed by a complete Microsoft pullout.
But, like someone who cannot seem to stop falling down an endless series of stairs, there were even more comical meetings after that, with Yang, Ballmer, as well as Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock and board member Ron Burkle, in which Yahoo essentially prostrated itself and was rejected again.
And yet hope–which I might call something else–lives on.
The last sentences of the Journal piece are particularly interesting in this regard:
“They believed that we needed them much more than they needed us,” one person close to Microsoft says. “Ultimately, we called their bluff.”
If that’s the case, people close to Yahoo say, they wonder why Microsoft continues to knock on their door.
Memo to Yahoo: Actually, it’s called Ding-Dong Ditch.