Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

NDA-Worthy PE Firms Silver Lake and TPG Meet With Top Yahoo Operating Execs

After signing strict nondisclosure agreements required by Yahoo, top private equity firms Silver Lake and TPG have been meeting with top operating execs there to get a closer look-see at the Silicon Valley Internet giant.

That has included a confab that well-known entrepreneur and now venture capitalist Marc Andreessen had last week with Yahoo’s Chief Product Officer Blake Irving to discuss its product roadmap.

Andreessen Horowitz, as I have previously reported, is working with Silver Lake on a possible investment or bid for all or parts of the troubled company. The two companies were previously allied on a similar deal involving Skype, which ended in a lucrative sale to Microsoft.

Whether or not they, or anyone else, can make such financial magic at Yahoo is the big question, of course, given the huge cost of such a bid, and whether the company’s prospects can be revived in any case.

Yahoo has seen its business crater in recent years, amid a drift in leadership, innovation and strategic focus, and an increasingly competitive environment.

Both PE firms and a range of other players are trying to suss out what that all means before committing a whole lot of time and money.

In order to get access to the Yahoo execs, some firms — such as Silver Lake and TPG — have signed NDAs, while others have not, since it bars “cross talk” among possible bidders.

Among the larger holdouts: Providence Equity Partners and Blackstone.

Rather than working with Yahoo and its board, they are considering working with outsiders, including Yahoo’s Asian partners, Alibaba Group and SoftBank.

Their assumption right now is that there is enough public information available about Yahoo, and that there are plenty of former high-ranking staffers to query.

But there is probably nothing like real-time information about Yahoo’s business, so meetings with top execs are happening with Silver Lake and TPG.

Until now, only board members — including co-founder Jerry Yang — have been involved in such encounters with outside investors.

Along with Irving, other Yahoos involved include interim CEO Tim Morse, North American head Ross Levinsohn and Yahoo Labs head and Chief Strategy Officer Prabhakar Raghavan.

How forthcoming these execs will be to possible bidders will be interesting, as well as how convincing, especially since several investors are worried about how hard it will be to fix Yahoo, and do not want to pay too much.

More on that key issue, of course, later.


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