@ EconAds: Microsoft Still Has M&A Needs; Who Knows If MSFT-YHOO Will Happen?


Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) — will the deal happen? Will any deal happen? Those questions met with uncertain answers from ContentNext’s EconAds’ final panel, a look at deals and the online ad marketplace.

Bruce Jaffe, former Corporate VP, Corporate Development for Microsoft seemed like the perfect person to provide an answer. But as he and other panelists tried to approach it, it became clear there really is no answer. Jaffe: “I agree: the deal’s either going to happen or not happen. I think it will be profound on the M&A market, since it would be so large.” But beyond that, nothing he could say. Later on, Jaffe returned to Microsoft’s M&A needs: “aQuantive filled a very important need [for Microsoft]. But it doesn’t help in search, and that is one of the areas that Microsoft is looking at. Lance Maerov, SVP, Corporate Development, WPP added: “Microsoft bought it because it could. But I don’t know how they’re going to make any return on that. Most companies, though, have to look at things differently.”

Dennis Miller, General Partner at Spark Capital, which recently backed Twitter’s $15 million round, offered a general take on what other companies should look for, beyond the focus of MSFT-YHOO: “Anything that’s perceived as valuing inventory is seen as the ‘it girl’ right now. We focus a lot on technology that can be optimized on ad networks. As for online video, we haven’t seen the ad dollars coming in. These are still the early days: new metrics being developed. That’s what we’re all waiting for.”

The panel’s moderator Rafat Ali, Publisher & Co-Editor, ContentNext Media, asked TACODA founder and former AOL (NYSE: TWX) exec Dave Morgan if this is a good time to sell? It’s all about timing he said, recalling turning down an offer before the dot-com crash. Morgan, who just accepted the role of chairman of The Tennis Company, was also asked about his departure from AOL, three months after it bought TACODA. Why doesn’t AOL lock in executives and prevent them from leaving so soon? Morgan: “I don’t think locking people in is what keeps companies going. I jumped into the role to run strategy, but I had been my own boss for 13 years. I had a desire to execute ideas where I could execute them without someone else’s control.”

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