Yahoo seems to be winning some folks over with its PR offensive about how it didn’t blow the Microsoft deal (part of the board and Jerry Yang’s campaign to ask you to please not fire them at the shareholder meeting). Today’s Wall Street Journal, however, echoes reports that Yahoo left out at least one embarrassing detail from its “Microsoft timeline”–one that confirms that the excuse it used to reject the deal for months was nonsense:
[On Saturday, May 17, in Palo Alto, Calif., two weeks after Microsoft walked], Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, director Ron Burkle and chairman Mr. Bostock met with Microsoft’s Mr. Ballmer. Messrs. Bostock and Burkle told Mr. Ballmer they were prepared to sell Yahoo for $33 to $34 a share, the price range Microsoft had offered before talks broke down, according to people familiar with the meeting. That would have valued the deal at about $47 billion, or $6 billion less than Yahoo’s previous asking price of $37 a share.
Remember all those letters about how $31 was an insult and “substantially undervalued” the company? We continue to believe Yahoo could have locked up a deal at $34-$35 in mid-February if it hadn’t been so dead-set against it. This is the embodiment of 1) being out to lunch, and 2) overplaying a hand.
In any event, today’s WSJ leads with the idea that Microsoft is now trying to “partner” with a media company to make another run at Yahoo. Steve Ballmer reportedly cancelled the meeting he was supposed to have with Yahoo about it, and the WSJ speculates that this was because he couldn’t find a partner. More likely, we think, he’s now focusing on the transaction Kara Swisher outlined a few days back: seizing control of Yahoo without actually buying it:
Microsoft Corp…has approached other media companies in recent days about joining it in a deal that would effectively lead to Yahoo’s breakup, say people familiar with the discussions.
Microsoft has held discussions with Time Warner Inc. and News Corp., among others, say people involved in the talks. In the past, Microsoft has floated an arrangement under which it would acquire Yahoo’s search business and another partner, such as News Corp.’s MySpace or Time Warner’s AOL, would combine forces with what remained of Yahoo. News Corp. is the owner of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.
Some of the people familiar with these talks say they are preliminary and unlikely to result in a deal with Yahoo. Indeed, two weeks ago, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer called Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock to suggest they meet to discuss a new idea involving other partners, according to a person familiar with the matter. The meeting, scheduled for Monday, was subsequently canceled by Microsoft, which Yahoo took as a sign that Mr. Ballmer’s efforts to find a partner have so far failed.
Whatever Microsoft does next will likely be made easier by the formal investigation the Justice Department has launched into the Google-Yahoo search deal. And the fact that Yahoo’s stock yesterday fell into the teens.