Kara Swisher

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Enter the Chernin? Former News Corp. President and COO in Yahoo What-If Mix

Things have certainly quieted down in the swirl of mostly vapor plots about the future of Yahoo, although the pondering, machinating and such on the parts of a variety of players have most certainly continued.

And that includes the introduction of a new character into the drama: Former News Corp. President Peter Chernin.

Let’s be very clear–there is no active plan for Chernin to join Yahoo or its board, nor is he currently part of any possible takeover plan related to the Silicon Valley Internet giant.

But multiple sources from a variety of sides said that Chernin, a well-liked and deeply experienced media and entertainment exec, has been contacted by a number of private equity firms and other investors about his interest in becoming involved should any of the various and sundry scenarios around the Internet giant pan out.

And Chernin, many sources said, has expressed a definite interest in the situation, perhaps because he was deeply involved in a previous deal when running News Corp.

At the time, it involved combining the media giant’s Myspace social networking site with Yahoo and also Microsoft’s portal MSN and creating a new company, code-named “TrafficCo.”

“He is asking a lot of questions and is nosing around, but there is not a plan,” said one source. “Yahoo has always been an interesting opportunity to him.”

Indeed, especially since Chernin has had a longtime interest in being more involved in digital business after a long career in traditional media.

He currently has a Santa Monica, Calif.-based media company, called Chernin Entertainment, which has a lucrative first-look production film and television deal with News Corp.–as well as the Chernin Group, which “pursues strategic opportunities in media, technology, and entertainment.”

And, in recent weeks, Chernin (pictured here) has also unveiled a new media venture in Asia called CA Media, which will “focus on a broad range of opportunities in content creation (specifically, film and TV production), television networks, sports, education, advertising, and digital media.”

But so far, since he left News Corp. in early 2009, Chernin has done very little in the digital arena.

In contrast, at News Corp., he was a key exec behind its co-founding of the Hulu premium video site, for example, among other digital initiatives.

And when Microsoft was vying to acquire Yahoo several years ago, Chernin and News Corp. CEO and Chairman Rupert Murdoch were actively trying to forge some solution that involved the company.

One possibility floated by numerous sources was that Chernin could once again work with Microsoft on settling all the turmoil around Yahoo of late.

In a related matter, sources said he had been in very early talks with the company about doing a subscription original-content channel on its Xbox–a kind of digital-only HBO–aimed at young men. Those discussions have not resulted in any project.

And, in fact, Chernin was a guest speaker at a Microsoft board retreat just yesterday in the Seattle area, where the theme was “Three Screens.”

He reportedly addressed television, the other two screen being the computer and the mobile phone.

A tighter relationship between Chernin and Microsoft would be interesting and possibly helpful to both.

“Microsoft is very worried about making sure there is a stable Yahoo,” said a source close to the situation, who noted the software giant has been quietly eyeing the situation and considering options. “Involving a well-regarded executive like Chernin makes a lot of sense.”

That makes sense given the key online search and advertising partnership Microsoft and Yahoo are now in, which tightly ties their fates together.

Of course, much about the Yahoo situation and any scenario being thought of–from spinning off its Asian assets in China’s Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan, to taking it private, to replacing its management and board–is, as BoomTown has frequently noted, a lot of shadows and dust at this point.

But–as a longtime admirer of Chernin’s curiosity about the digital realm, refreshingly minus the requisite horror over its growth that is so characteristic of much of Hollywood–his interest is a welcome one into the debate over what Yahoo needs to do to reinvigorate itself going forward.

Asking his thoughts might be a good question at the Web 2.0 Summit conference, where Chernin is being interviewed later today on the topic of content.

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When AllThingsD began, we told readers we were aiming to present a fusion of new-media timeliness and energy with old-media standards for quality and ethics. And we hope you agree that we’ve done that.

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