Microsoft Still Playing Footsie With Yahoo
Getting pandas to mate couldn’t be much more difficult than getting Microsoft and Yahoo to. Mr. Softy makes a grand display, woos, is rejected; Yahoo changes heart, does a strip tease, but Mr. Softy’s pride is too wounded. The insider drama revealed in a lengthy report by the Wall Street Journal plays out like a pair of lovers flirting with disaster one way or the other.
And Carl Icahn comes off as the level-headed one, the crusher of romance. Betcha a dollar Daddy Icahn gets his way once these kids sober up.
This passage, way down the page, was a gem:
Yahoo executives were unimpressed with Mr. Ballmer’s vision. If anything, they regarded the Yahoo pursuit as a crude solution to quell his obsession with Google. They would later refer to Mr. Ballmer’s plan as "filling his Internet hole."
The piece also suggests Yang and Filo were just teasing about wanting $37 per share, especially when, after the number breached the ether between Ballmer and them, Ballmer called the whole thing quits, packed up his crap and left with his chin quivering—private jet chairs are attached to the floor, you see.
But of course, it ain’t over. Ballmer still needs to fill his Internet hole (Google still squats atop the hill, breathing fire, devouring villages—he can get ’em), and Yang, Bostock, and Filo still need to fill the chasm they’ve created between themselves and shareholders by not taking into account what a pouter Steve Ballmer can be.
So now, it’s cognitive dissonance in reverse (non-buyer’s remorse). While Google and Yahoo smooch under the cherry blossoms (how dare they!), and Microsoft volunteers assistance to antitrust regulators, Mr. Softy attempts to shore up a posse of pipe-wielding conglomerates (characterized by bulging pockets and certain cranial protuberances).
Unfortunately, neither News Corp. nor Time Warner seem interested in splitting up Microsoft’s would-be carrion, what with AOL itself rumored to be on the auction block and MySpace doing just fine on its own. Though a MySpace-Yahoo tag team sounds somewhat epic in theory, it’s hard to get past what everybody, including Yahoo, knows: Yahoo’s not much without her core search business, and that’s all Microsoft really wants anyway.
It seems too late. Feelings are too hurt, shares are down on both sides, and Icahn shoving his big old nose into the middle of it just set off more alarms in the Yahoo camp, delaying or destroying any chance of friendly reconciliation as doors are furiously slammed in the house, diaries are opened and girlfriends are called. (But it’s hard, as an old corporate raider, to stand by and watch kids screw their lives up like this, you know?)
The ironic reality will be this: Icahn’s cold, greedy rationality will win out over pride and prejudice. It’ll be the biggest shotgun wedding this side of the 21st Century. The honeymoon will be rocky, but maybe —maybe—they’ll learn to love each other. It’s not love or war, it’s not about corporate cultures. It’s pure mathematics, and facing up to hard realities.