Gossip Guys: The Microsoft-Yahoo Saga

Remember back in the Dark Ages before text messaging, when a teenager (let’s call him Jerry Yang) might get a best friend (maybe call him Carl Icahn) to call another friend (say, Steve Ballmer) using three-way calling? With Yang sitting silently on the line, the goal would be for Icahn to goad Ballmer into saying how he really felt about Yang. Well, now that we’re adults, and billions of dollars are on the line, all this is done via proxy battles as is the case with the aborted deal for Microsoft, headed by Ballmer, to buy Yahoo, which is headed by Yang.

The whole thing just gets more and more dramatic — the lack of teen girls notwithstanding. Today, Carl Icahn, who holds a large stake in Yahoo, released a letter to Yahoo shareholders where he says he has spent, like, HOURS on the phone with Ballmer, who was still totally interested in Yahoo. But Ballmer’s, like, so worried that Yang and current Yahoo management might “mismanage” the company during the time it takes to get a deal done (because The Federal Trade Commission can take FOREVER, ya know?)

And Ballmer is putting, like, a ton of dough on the line here, so he needs, like, some kind of assurance that Yang and Co. aren’t going to go screw things up. And in the last attempts, he just didn’t get that, ya know? So Ballmer just HAD to walk away, right? But with a different board, you know, like Icahn’s board? Then, maybe Microsoft could forget about the past and get a deal done. In his letter Icahn says:

I strongly believe that in very short order the new board would, subject to its fiduciary duties, be presenting to shareholders either a purchase offer for the whole company or a very attractive offer to purchase “Search” with large guarantees. I hope to continue to be speaking to Steve over the next few weeks; however, since I do not as yet represent the Yahoo! board, both Steve and I do not wish to get into details over price, or even which of these transactions makes the most sense.

So Icahn, who has, like totally, put up his own slate of directors who would work with Ballmer, could really make this deal happen if shareholders would just, you know, LISTEN to him and vote for his board. Totes!

BTW, the whole crew, including Google and AOL guys, will be in Sun Valley this week for the swanky Allen & Co. media conference. It’s like a high-power slumber party where deals get done and the press gets excluded. Maybe Yang will ditch Ballmer and Icahn for Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes who head AOL. Tune in next week for the latest on Gossip Guys.

Update: Microsoft issued its own statement backing Icahn. If Icahn gains control of the board at the Aug. 1 shareholder meeting, Ballmer would talk deals again, either buying just the search assets or possibly the whole company.

Update 2: Yahoo tells Ballmer, “If you want a deal, say that to my face.”

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