How do we know that Steve Ballmer’s withdrawal of his Yahoo (YHOO) offer wasn’t just a brilliant negotiating move? Because less than 72 hours after he did it–with the target, Yahoo, collapsing in a spectacular riot of backpedaling and finger-pointing–Ballmer’s advisors have already rushed to the New York Times to scream about what an idiot he is.
“Amateur hour,” is how one Ballmer aide described his handling of this deal, in the midst of a spirited Andrew Ross Sorkin defence of Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo’s Wall Street M&A advisors. Sorkin believes that the blame for the Yahoo disaster lies squarely on Steve Ballmer and Jerry Yang’s shoulders–not, as some have suggested, with the team of Wall Street’s best and brightest who steered the pair off the cliff:
Perhaps the biggest problem in this deal was that neither Microsoft nor Yahoo heeded Wall Street’s advice or listened to what the market was saying. Each company hired armies of bankers — Bear Stearns, Blackstone Group and Morgan Stanley for Microsoft; Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Moelis & Company for Yahoo — but neither really paid attention to what their advisers told them.
Say what you want about bankers, but they at least are good at parroting the markets. At one meeting in Portland between both companies, a Yahoo executive dismissed his company’s bankers as “potted plants” — in front of them.
“Amateur hour!” (We wouldn’t even believe it if one of Microsoft’s advisors hadn’t said exactly the same phrase with us.) It seems that, to be treated well by your bankers in the press, you have to pay more than $75 million in M&A fees.