What to make of this bizarre tidbit in today’s WSJ? Some folks close to Yahoo (YHOO) appear to be claiming that Yahoo only learned about Microsoft’s willingness to pay $33 when they read it in Steve Ballmer’s sayonara letter on Saturday:
Yahoo learned that Microsoft was willing to make a specific offer of $33 a share only in Mr. Ballmer’s letter to Mr. Yang Saturday, these people said. “We did not know what the offer was,” said one person close to Yahoo.
The WSJ immediately contradicts this account–“on Friday, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith called Ron Olson, a lawyer for Yahoo’s board, to say Microsoft was prepared to pay $33, according to people familiar with the matter”–but, still…
Yahoo’s communications during this episode have been much less controlled than Microsoft’s, but let us assume that at least some of the Yahoo folks who talk to the WSJ are trying to accomplish something by doing so. What could possibly be accomplished by the leaking of the “We only learned of the $33 offer in Steve Ballmer’s letter” anecdote?
Let us hope (pray) that Yahoo is not trying to deflect shareholder outrage at the collapse of the deal by saying it didn’t know that Microsoft was willing to pay $33–that this was part of the “nonsense” that Jerry referred to in his blog post over the weekend.
Unless Microsoft is flat-out lying in its public statements, the company made clear to Yahoo that it was willing to pay $33. And, more importantly, if Yahoo is hoping that the “we didn’t know” defence will mollify shareholders, here’s the next question shareholders should demand the answer to: “Well, then what would you have done if you had known that the offer was $33?”
Yahoo is maintaining that the company is worth $40+ a share and that the $37 the board offered is already a major compromise. So if the point is “We’d have rejected any offer less than $37,” why is the “we didn’t know” anecdote worth relaying?
Let us hope that what the WSJ’s source meant is that Yahoo didn’t know until Friday that Microsoft was willing to pay $33 and that this was just an element of a larger “how it went down” story–and not a defence of Yahoo’s negotiation strategy over the weekend…
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