Kara Swisher

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Yahoo’s Former GC Callahan Places His Bid With Online Real Estate Marketplace Auction.com

2013 Michael Callahan01-feature

Michael Callahan, Yahoo’s former longtime and powerful general counsel, has taken a job as EVP and chief legal officer at Auction.com, one of the top online real estate marketplaces.

He oversees legal, regulatory, intellectual property, government relations, compliance, ethics and corporate governance issues at the Irvine, Calif., company from its Silicon Valley office. Callahan actually started at the company earlier this year, and has since then recruited several lawyers, including several from Yahoo.

Auction.com certainly needs strong legal talent, with its myriad of business and consumer customers across the U.S. and, more recently, internationally. Each jurisdiction has a variety of rules for real estate and there are, of course, contracts aplenty.

In an interview last week, Callahan — who certainly might have landed at a large-scale consumer Internet company — said he was attracted by the idea of disrupting a niche industry that has been largely fragmented and that has been run in a more analog and disorganized way.

“The power of technology to bring speed, transparency and efficiency to how real estate is bought and sold is really compelling,” he said. “And Auction.com been around for a long time, even though what it’s been doing is just now becoming obvious.”

Indeed, the company has been operating since 1991 — with its online auction platform launching in 2008 — selling about $20 billion worth of real estate assets. Those have ranged from a $27,000 townhouse in Charlotte, NC to a $73.2 million Class A office building in Glendale, Calif.

Auction.com, which has more than 700 employees, gets fees and a percentage of sales on transactions. It recently disclosed close to $92 million in funding, from private equity firm Stone Point Capital and others, in an regulatory filing.

Callahan had been the top lawyer at Yahoo for almost a decade, after arriving there in 1999. In that job, he was in charge of legal affairs and public policy globally. In addition, he played a very powerful role on a range of strategic, corporate governance and transactional issues at Yahoo. That included everything from its nasty hostile takeover battle with Microsoft to its eventual search and advertising partnership with the software giant, as well as the company’s patent settlement with Facebook. He had also been a key adviser to Yahoo’s musical chair series of CEOs over the last few years.

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