Kara Swisher

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Exclusive: Yahoo and Microsoft Poised to Finally Sign Definitive Search and Ad Agreement

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Yahoo and Microsoft are poised to finally sign the definitive agreement that will govern the complex and far-reaching search and online advertising partnership they struck in late July, said sources close to the situation.

If all goes well, the various Microsoft and Yahoo execs–who have been ferreted away over the last weeks, busy dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s in the massive document–could even turn in their deal homework to their bosses for signature by the end of the week.

Yahoo (YHOO) officials declined to comment, while Microsoft (MSFT) has not gotten back to BoomTown as yet.

In any case, getting the definitive agreement in place is critical to making the high-profile MicroHoo deal a reality and, of course, getting the anti-Google (GOOG) party started.

So when the pair blew through a deadline to complete it in late October, there were eyebrows raised all over Wall Street and Silicon Valley.

When Yahoo filed an 8-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission in August, it noted that the “Definitive Agreement” between the Silicon Valley Internet company and the Redmond, Wash., software giant needs to be sketched out by Oct. 27, 2009.

But it is a monster document, which is why MicroHoo did not complete it in time. After that whiff, Yahoo said as much in another filing with the SEC:

“The Letter Agreement specified that the parties would execute definitive agreements by October 27, 2009, but given the complex nature of the transaction, there remain some details to be finalized.”

Added Microsoft similarly:

“We have made good progress in finalizing the definitive agreements. Given the complex nature of this transaction there remain some issues that need some additional clarity and definitive details.”

Nonetheless, both companies have consistently said that they would be able to close this deal by early 2010.

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Yahoo and Microsoft had already done a pretty hefty binding-agreement letter (here is a picture of Yahoo’s CEO Carol Bartz and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer holding it, in fact).

Also key: Getting approval for the deal from regulators in Washington, D.C., which, sources said, also seems to be on track.

With little opposition, Yahoo and Microsoft policy types have been chipping away on regulatory issues with federal regulators in Washington.

And, several sources said, those government approvals are now nearing completion at the Justice Department, even though the Federal Trade Commission might still ask for more assurances on privacy issues related to online advertising and consumer data.

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International regulatory approval is another story, especially in Europe, which could further delay the implementation of the partnership, since it is unlikely the pair would move forward without clearance globally.

When that is done, the real game begins, as MicroHoo faces its the much more critical Tim Gunn acid test for the deal:

Making it work.


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