In an unusually aggressive effort to stop Microsoft from moving forward with its $44.6 billion hostile bid for Yahoo, Google emerged over...
In an unusually aggressive effort to stop Microsoft from moving forward with its $44.6 billion hostile bid for Yahoo, Google emerged over the weekend with plans to be the spoiler.
Publicly, Google came out against the deal, saying the takeover proposed by Microsoft on Friday would pose potential threats to competition that need to be examined by policymakers around the world.
Privately, Google went much further. CEO Eric Schmidt called Yahoo’s chief, Jerry Yang, offering the company’s help in fending off Microsoft, possibly in the form of a partnership between the companies, people briefed on the call said.
Google’s lobbyists have also begun plotting a case against the transaction to make with lawmakers, people briefed on plans said.
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In addition, several executives made “back-channel” calls to allies at companies like Time Warner, which owns AOL, to inquire whether they planned to pursue a rival offer and how they could assist, these people said. Google owns 5 percent of AOL.
Despite those efforts and the work of Yahoo’s own bankers to garner interest in a bid to rival Microsoft’s, one did not seem likely, at least at this early stage. Frequently named prospective suitors including Time Warner, News Corp., AT&T and Comcast have not begun work on a bid, people close to them said.
They suggested they did not want to enter a bidding war with Microsoft, which has much deeper pockets and could easily top their offers.
People close to Yahoo said it got a flurry of inquires over the weekend from potential suitors in the media, technology and private equity industries.
Some people inside Yahoo speculate about the company breaking up. That could mean selling or forming a joint venture for its search-related business and spinning off or selling operations that produce original content, these people said.
One person involved in Yahoo’s deliberations suggested “the sum of the parts are worth more than the whole,” arguing that pieces like Yahoo Finance, for example, could be sold to a company like News Corp. for a huge premium; while Yahoo Sports could be sold to a company like ESPN.
Executives at rival companies were less optimistic about such a breakup strategy. “No one can get to a $44 billion price, even if you split it into a dozen pieces,” one said.
And the price is going to be higher anyway. “That was Steve’s opening salvo,” the person said, referring to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
In a statement on its Web site Sunday, Google said the potential purchase by Microsoft posed potential threats to competition that needed to be examined by policymakers around the world.
Google said that given Microsoft’s dominance of the PC market and its past conduct, which has been scrutinized by antitrust regulators in the United States and Europe, the proposed transaction could pose threats to “innovation and openness” on the Internet.
But Google’s broadly worded concerns lacked detailed claims about any anti-competitive effects of the deal, and the company did not publicly ask regulators to take specific actions at this time.
Yahoo declined to comment Sunday. Microsoft said, as it did Friday when it made the bid, that the merger would lead to more, not less, competition.
In a statement, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said: “Microsoft is committed to openness, innovation, and the protection of privacy on the Internet. We believe that the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo will advance these goals.”