Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo Stock Gets Gaslit by Bidders Dangling Phantom $20-a-Share Bid

What an amazing coincidence.

On the very day Yahoo’s board is considering actual bids from two private equity firms interested in deals to buy close to 20 percent of the company for between $16.50 and $17.50 a share, comes a spate of eerily similar breathless media postings that there’s another bid in the making for $20!

That’s totes better, right? I mean, how can Yahoo’s directors accept a real live lesser-priced bid now when there’s a prettier one in the fog just ahead?

No, really, it’s there — if you squint really, really hard.

Except it’s not even close, when you actually check with two of the key members of the group of alleged buyers, which would apparently be Blackstone, Bain Capital and Yahoo’s Asian partners, Alibaba Group and SoftBank.

Sources close to Blackstone and Alibaba said while there have been talks, which have been previously reported weeks ago here and elsewhere, there is no bid in the offing that is close to fruition and at that price.

In an unusual public statement, in fact, Alibaba’s John Spelich said flatly: “Alibaba Group has not made a decision to be part of a whole-company bid for Yahoo.”

This from a company whose voluble CEO Jack Ma is prone to making giant and noisy speeches to signal his interest in finding a way — any way — to get back shares of the Chinese Internet giant from Yahoo.

Not this time, and several sources close to Alibaba reiterated that it was nowhere near close to any bid as yet and that a price is still up in the air. In addition, sources added, Alibaba might decide to work with another PE group, such as Providence Equity.

In addition, sources noted that if Alibaba could strike an adequate deal with private equity bidders to get a large chunk of the stake back, it would be highly preferable to a hostile takeover of Yahoo that could end in tears and little else.

“The threat of a takeover is more useful than the damage an actual takeover would cause for everyone,” said one person close to the situation. “No one wants this to be unfriendly.”

So why the rumors — doubtlessly being spread around by hopelessly cynical Wall Street types interested only in stock manipulation — surfacing today?

Simple: To get some easy-to-play media outlet to bite, report it as speculative fact and cause the stock of Yahoo to take flight tomorrow.

Hey, it could happen!

Sadly, this junior-league trick has already worked — Yahoo shares were up a dollar to $16.72 in after-hours trading tonight.

It is likely to go even higher tomorrow, which could cause the board of Yahoo to delay accepting either of the partial bids from Silver Lake or TPG Capital, even if they were the best thing for the company and its employees.

Except that the job of the Yahoo board is to evaluate what’s before them and not what is perhaps, someday, soon, wait-by-the-phone, really soon, I promise is going to be delivered.

In fact, several sources noted that it’s not clear if the Yahoo board has even asked for parties to submit whole-company bids yet.

When and if Yahoo’s board does that and if something better actually does come down the pike, with a much fatter price tag of $20 or more, then the directors can mull that over.

That would be the prudent thing to do for the company, its employees and its shareholders, even if Yahoo’s stock gets a temporary lift now.

Maybe I am just a hopeless Silicon Valley romantic and not a hardened Wall Street M&A type, but the survival of Yahoo is the real point here, rather than the lining of bankers’ already fee-stuffed pockets.

And anything other than that is just fog.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google