Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo and Microsoft Deal Progress "Meaningful"–Plus the Deal Team Rosters

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Recently, BoomTown reported that talks between Microsoft and Yahoo had gotten “hot and heavy.”

That mood seems to be continuing, as many sources close to the situation on both sides said that the pair are coming ever closer to a search and advertising partnership deal.

Said one source: “It’s closer than it has ever been…we’re finally talking about the how rather than the if.”

“It’s meaningful,” added another source. “The fact that there is even progress and engagement, after so many failed attempts between us, says a lot.”

Indeed, it remains a good sign that there seems to be a lot of engagement between the two sides of late, and some sources think a deal could even be struck within the next few weeks.

As I also reported last week, the latest idea is one in which Yahoo (YHOO) would take over both search and display advertising sales and Microsoft (MSFT) would run the tech for both behind the scenes.

It’s not clear if trading other assets–such as content–or an investment in Yahoo by Microsoft are being considered too.

In any case, any such deal would be a major shift for both companies in their business focus and would also tether them tightly together.

Many think they need to be tethered, given that Google (GOOG) overwhelmingly dominates the lucrative search market. Yahoo is strong in display, although that market has been harder hit in the recent economic downturn.

But whether or not Yahoo and Microsoft can come to a partnership agreement–given the deep complexities of the situation, the wariness over controlling key technologies and tense history between them–is a big if, of course.

Still, sources on both sides seem more positive than ever before.

Microsoft execs, for their part, report that new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz is much more straightforward to work with than former CEO Jerry Yang.

And Yahoo’s side seems convinced that Microsoft appears more willing to make a deal happen and is more flexible on terms than in previous encounters.

Both sides are using very small teams to discuss the possible partnership, mostly in Silicon Valley. Some of the Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft team, in fact, are in the Bay area now.

Sources said those involved on the Microsoft side include: Digital head Qi Lu, a former Yahoo tech star; top M&A and strategy exec Charles Songhurst; Online Audience Business SVP Yusuf Mehdi; and several others.

On the Yahoo side: North America EVP Hilary Schneider, who leads the efforts; General Counsel Michael Callahan; top Yahoo ad operations techie Mark Morrissey, who was key to its revival of the Panama ad system and has recently been leading product development on its new ad platform; finance SVP and Chief Treasury Officer Mike Gupta; and Products EVP and CTO Ari Balogh, although he is more in the background.

Of course, the only two execs who will matter, if these teams finally manage to hash out details, are Yahoo’s Bartz and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, as well the both companies’ boards.

Interestingly, Ballmer is slated to be at Stanford University’s Memorial Auditorium to give a lecture on innovation and entrepreneurship as part of the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar on Wednesday afternoon.

Whether Ballmer is seeing Bartz on this trip or not is not clear.

But he has to at some point. The approval of a deal–which could be struck soon, if terms can be reached–will be entirely their call.

[Postcard image courtesy of CarbonClothing on Zazzle.com.]


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald