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There’s some amusing finger-pointing going on in the aftermath of the Google-Yelp affair (which, like any affair, may just be in remission).
The trouble, it appears, started last week, when someone leaked news of the takeover talks to TechCrunch. Normally, such leaks come from the target–in this case, Yelp–in the hope of driving the acquisition price higher. (Such articles are the equivalent of “Going once, going twice…” exhortations at auctions.)
Alas, this tactic can backfire, which is why you don’t see such articles appear before EVERY deal is announced. Sometimes, when people agree to keep negotiations confidential, they actually keep them confidential. And, sometimes, the party that doesn’t leak takes the leaks personally…and cuts off the negotiations.
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A few days ago, when someone cut off the Google-Yelp negotiations, the Yelp camp quickly got to work, spinning the decision to end the talks as a Yelp decision.
This provoked an unusual response from the Google camp, in the form of an article in the New York Times suggesting that Google, not Yelp, had cut off the talks. Today, a source familiar with Google’s thinking confirmed to us that Google walked because “Google is determined not to have deals negotiated through the press.”
Now, it is clearly possible that both sides are furiously negotiating through the press, but at this point in the proceedings, Google is doing it better. Yelp looks like it overplayed its hand. And if the deal is to go through, it’s now up to Yelp to go crawling back to Google and beg forgiveness.
In the meantime, however, inquiring minds want to know, who screwed up?
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Was it Yelp’s management, going behind the back of their superstar banker, George Boutros (right) of Credit Suisse? Was it a team-screwup, in which all parties agreed to use TechCrunch to try to jack the deal price up, only to watch the tactic blow up? Or was it George himself, who underestimated the resolve of his once- and future-client, Google, and wrecked a deal for his current client, Yelp?
(Or, alternately, did Yelp roll the leak dice wisely, believing it CAN get a lot more money if it goes public or sells to someone else–a perfectly reasonable gamble that, depending on how events unfold, could just leave Google just looking Scrooge-y and embittered?)
Inquiring minds want to know!