Will Marc or Won’t He? Andreessen Mulling Yahoo Leadership Role in Bid.
As bidders ready their offers for all or parts of Yahoo this week, a lot of the eyes for one of the more aggressive ones will likely be on well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur and powerful VC Marc Andreessen.
That’s because he’s deciding whether or not to play a significant role — as a key board member and even possibly as chairman — in an effort by private equity firm Silver Lake to buy part of the troubled Internet giant and attempt a dramatic reversal of its waning fortunes.
Andreessen, who now runs the Andreessen Horowitz venture firm with Ben Horowitz, has visited Yahoo execs, as I reported last week, part of a weighing of whether to deeply enmesh himself in turning around the iconic Web property.
He has been, as was also reported several months ago, allied with Silver Lake on a Yahoo effort since September and worked with the firm on its purchase and then sale of Internet communications service Skype.
For Andreessen — who serves on the board of Hewlett-Packard and has a lot on his plate running a major venture firm with investments at key companies throughout the tech sector — the decision to join with Silver Lake is a tough one, given that the possibility of failure is not unheard of.
“The question is whether Yahoo can be a growth company again,” said one person close to the situation. “And that is still unclear.”
In meetings with Yahoo execs, several sources noted that Andreessen was unusually blunt about the problems Yahoo faces and its mistakes in the past. They noted as well his reticence over the amount of work required to make a difference.
“He seemed very negative on the idea of whether anyone had what it took to turn it around,” said one exec.
Another factor: Possible friction with Yahoo co-founder and Andreessen friend Jerry Yang. The pair have discussed the issue on friendly terms. “Marc would not do this without Jerry being okay with it,” said one source.
That’s because observers expect the entrance of the Netscape co-founder — who has enormous clout with engineering talent across Silicon Valley, which Yahoo dearly needs — to overshadow and even minimize Yang’s involvement.
One thing is clear: Major shareholders, who are wary of any deal that would keep the current regime in place at Yahoo, told me in multiple interviews last week that the only way they would accept a partial investment by a private equity firm — called a PIPE — would be if there was new leadership in any deal.
And the first name mentioned by almost every Yahoo investor as a key get? Marc Andreessen.
Andreessen declined to comment on any of the 53 emails I sent him asking to.