It could be an interesting summer for Yahoo. After numerous conversations over the last few weeks with bankers, activist investors and media executives, it seems Yahoo could soon face an activist group which attempts to force the company to explore strategic alternatives. And if that were to occur, the belief is Yahoo would find interested parties in the form of News Corp., AT&T, AOL, Microsoft and Comcast. Not all of those would be outright purchases.
(MSNBC.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
In fact, one idea that News Corp. has been studying, according to sources, would involve the sale of its MySpace division to Yahoo for a significant stake in the company. Bankers believe MySpace could be worth as much as $10 billion in such a deal, though it's far from clear Yahoo would agree. If it did, News Corp. might be able to have as much as a 25 percent stake in Yahoo.
Any deal, which again is in its early stages, would also involve Yahoo outsourcing its search to Google, which currently plays that role for MySpace.
News Corp. officials decline comment. It's unclear whether News Corp. has yet to do more than discuss the idea internally.
A similar idea has come up in meetings investors have had recently with Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons. Parsons has responded to speculative questions about an AOL-Yahoo link up by saying that a combination of AOL and Yahoo could make sense, if search was taken over by Google, for a significant fee.
A Time Warner spokesman offered no comment on potential deal-making.
Beyond News Corp. and AOL, there is also continued interest from Microsoft and the possibility that companies such as AT&T and even Comcast would be inclined to look at a Yahoo deal should the company explore such options.
All of this, of course, is speculative, but there is the real possibility that large activist shareholders get loud. As one of them said to me on Friday "If it's not us, someone will put their feet to the fire."
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