Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Marc Andreessen vs. Reid Hoffman in Yahoo Savior Face-Off? Not Yet. (But Delicious to Imagine.)

Last night, the New York Times dropped a juicy little tidbit into its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink daily update of the board mishegas at Yahoo around the deliberations yesterday over two competing private equity bids to buy a partial stake in the company.

No, not the one about Jeff Jordan — former eBay exec, OpenTable CEO and now VC at Andreessen Horowitz — possibly taking a big role at Yahoo if the firm’s bid with Silver Lake prevailed — which was mysteriously removed very soon after it posted (’cuz he will not, so good move, NYT!)

I mean the one about the venture firm’s big-kahuna partner, Marc Andreessen — who will indeed take a board seat and play a strong role in Yahoo’s future if his bid wins — getting a possible competitor in the Silicon Valley savior section of the ongoing show.

That would be in the form of Reid Hoffman, the well-known entrepreneur, VC and angel investor, who the Times said had talked with TPG Capital, Silver Lake’s rival in the Yahoo bidding, about becoming a possible partner.

Wrote the Times:

“TPG has held discussions with Greylock Partners, another venture capital firm, about a possible alignment, two people said. TPG is hoping to draw on the expertise of Reid Hoffman, one of Greylock’s partners and the founder of the professional social network LinkedIn, these people said.”

Translation: If Silver Lake has a tech icon of substance on its team to give uber-geek appeal to its offer — dagnabbit — then TPG was going to raise with another one, whom the very same Times reporter who wrote last night’s article recently nicknamed “The Start-Up Whisperer” in a recent glowing profile of Hoffman.

While I am still trying to grok what a start-up whisperer exactly means (and how someone as self-effacing as Hoffman would react to such a twee moniker without snickering), it’s a move that has likely already irritated Silver Lake.

After all, TPG aiming at nabbing Hoffman is akin to two crazy neighbors trying to one-up each other in holiday-lighting lawn decor. (You have a singing Santa, so I’ll have a singing Santa — and I might even add a Lady Gaga-themed crèche for good measure!)

But it’s not a bad instinct, either, to get your own live-action Silicon Valley legend, even if it is only half true in Hoffman’s case.

Because, according to sources who know such things, while Hoffman and TPG have had conversations, there have been no commitments, and nothing is close to being agreed on to link the pair.

That could certainly change, and quickly, but Hoffman or Greylock aren’t currently in TPG’s proposal to Yahoo.

That’s in contrast to Andreessen, who is all in (I am not even going to bother with “sources said” here, since everyone and my mother has seen the proposal) with Silver Lake on the deal to purchase 19.9 percent of Yahoo for about $16.50 a share.

As I reported earlier this week, for Silver Lake’s money and expertise in fixing broken things, the bid includes: Silver Lake getting three board seats; cash going to a buyback of stock or granting of a dividend to shareholders; the ability to select a CEO; approval of its strategic plan for Yahoo, and its solution to come to terms with Yahoo’s unhappy Asian partners; and all the purple wearables you could ever hope for (perhaps Yahoo’s best asset, IMHO, especially worn by such obviously cool dudes, as seen here).

Also, controversial Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang gets to stay around on the board (but only if he becomes very, very quiet, so as not to rile the activist shareholders).

TPG’s bid is less formed, although its price is slightly higher. And the PE firm has yet to check the “Big Geek Included” box.

Hence, the floating of Hoffman as a contender to take on Andreessen, who was once dubbed the “Golden Geek” by Time magazine.

I hope TPG does, soon, since what a matchup it would be!

But, for now at least, the pair — who share big investments in a range of Web companies, most especially Facebook (Andreessen is on the board of the social networking giant, and Hoffman was an early investor and adviser) — are at peace.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work