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Grand Theft Auto V is around the corner…or at least the trailer is

Shares of Take-Two Interactive surged 6 percent on Tuesday. But it had nothing to do with activist investor Carl Icahn, who owns a chunk of the company or any rumors about the company's earnings on Nov. 8.

What happened is that investors looked at the website of Rockstar games, the Take-Two-owned studio behind the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Its website had been replaced by a large Grand Theft Auto logo and a Roman numeral V wrapped around a banner saying "five."

Gamers have been salivating for GTA 5 since 2008, when the last game in the series came out, so much so that at least one analyst has said that the game could sell 25 million copies in its first year.

But the timing, price, features or any other details are not yet known. The only clue the company revealed is on its website: the trailer is coming out on Nov 2.

Dan Houser, one of its renown game developers, gave an extended interview to Gamespot last week to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the third version  but was mum on new details about the newest game.

from DealZone:

Bunch of Yahoos

A string of Yahoo sales, engineering and product executives took the stage on Wednesday in the company's first full-day briefing with analysts since May 2006, all with a mantra that came down from on high: "Today is the beginning of a journey back to respect," said CEO Carol Bartz.

With page views increasing, Carl Icahn having drawn in his horns, and the company extending a deadline for finalizing a search agreement with Microsoft, the time was right for a love-in.

Finance Chief Tim Morse said Yahoo expects to achieve operating margins between 15 percent and 20 percent by 2012. After the third quarter's "pathetic" 6 percent, shareholders would certainly consider that a more respectful performance.

What does Wall Street think of Yahoo the morning after?

The reaction to Yahoo’s earnings in the stock market this morning was relatively positive. Shares rose 2 percent right off the bat, but we’ll see what happens as the day rolls on. Meanwhile, here are what some Wall Streeters had to say about the quarter in various research reports.

Signal Hill Capital Group: While all of Yahoo’s business segments declined, display was by far the hardest hit.  Display ad sales fell 27% sequentially and 13% YoY to $371 million, as premium inventory is either not selling out, or is selling at very depressed CPM’s.  Yahoo’s search business declined less, but is hardly a bright spot.  Search revenue dropped 9% sequentially, compared with Google’s 4% sequential decline.

Collins Stewart: Given how bad display and search ad trends were during the March quarter, we believe the earning was not bad. CEO Bartz is clearly bringing fresh perspective, sound cost management, and portfolio optimization approach, which we believe will start yielding positive results. We continue to believe that Microsoft-Yahoo search deal is very likely and silence by CEO Bartz during the earnings call suggested to us that something is brewing.

Icahn vs Lions Gate heating up

Not so fast Mr. Icahn. Lions Gate Entertainment is trying to defend itself against famed financier Carl Icahn by hiring an advisory team, including investment bank Morgan Stanley and the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz.

It also is in talks to offer a board seat to Mark Rachesky of MHR Fund Management, the studio’s largest shareholder.

Icahn controls 14.5 percent of Lions Gate’s shares and wants to increase his sway, seemingly because he’s frustrated with things like costs and the company’s decision to buy the TV Guide cable channel.

The media is hungry for corporate excess

Guess where the paparazzi are training their lenses these days? For those of you who missed it, The New York Times writes that gossip rags have all but abandoned Britney Spears for the thrill of capturing corporate excesses on camera. From the paper:

The tabloid media, of course, have always peered into the excesses of the rich and famous with a mix of puritan disapproval and voyeurism. But these outlets and other news organizations are now recording troubling uses of taxpayer money at country clubs, private airports and glamorous retreats and, in so doing, explicitly tapping into a fierce populist anger at corporate America, and even pressuring Congress to hold companies accountable.

Populist indignation apart, perhaps people also feel a sense of glee when watching or reading about the severe scaling back of corporate budgets that once supported lavish lifestyles. Gawker may have captured the glee best in this biting account of The Wall Street Journal story on Goldman Sachs executives being asked to stay at Embassy Suites rather than the Ritz.

What’s next for Lions Gate?

Last week, it had seemed like Lions Gate and Carl Icahn were heading to an amicable settlement (in other words, Icahn was close to getting his way because the independent film and television studio was leaning toward giving him a board seat or two).

But things obviously soured, because talks broke down, raising the specter of a proxy fight for control of Lions Gate.

From Icahn: “Discussions have been terminated because agreement could not be reached concerning certain aspects of the standstill agreement that Lions Gate demanded as a condition of installing those board members.:

If Wasserstein could turn back Time (Warner)…

Bruce Wasserstein, chief executive of private equity firm Lazard, joined Blackstone co-founder Steve Schwarzman at a breakfast sponsored by Fortune magazine this morning to share their collective wisdom regarding the financial crisis. (For more on the breakfast, see our DealZone blog).

At the end of the Q&A session, he got one of those out-of-the-blue questions from editor and moderator Andy Serwer: If he could do it all over again, would he still have hooked up with Carl Icahn on the activist investor’s quest to shake up Time Warner Inc?

It sounded like he would. He told guests at the breakfast that he was proud of the report that he and Icahn prepared about the state of the media conglomerate, which contained a bunch of recommendations for how it could improve — including mounting a bigger push into the digital age.

Financial upheaval keeps ad men jumping

wallstreet.jpg The turmoil of Wall Street is keep Madison Avenue’s creative types on their toes.

As the New York Times points out, “The biggest challenge, executives say, is trying to keep up with the stunning economic and financial events and the resulting mood swings, as evidenced by the roller-coaster ride from the despair of Wednesday to the euphoria of Friday. All that makes it difficult to determine how to best persuade shoppers to open their wallets.”

The newspaper reports that New York Life, an insurance company, last week asked their agency, Taxi, to create a new round of ads to play up the company’s reliability in the aftermath of the AIG meltdown.

Yahoo: The Road to No Deal

The following is a timeline of key events leading up to Yahoo’s Aug. 1 annual meeting.

2006 January – Yahoo Inc begins to report a string of weak quarterly results, reflecting competitive missteps by the company, market share gains by rival Google Inc, changes in the online advertising landscape and weakening spending in some ad segments.

Stock_slide

2006 – Microsoft Corp and Yahoo begin preliminary talks on various partnerships, including a merger.

Yahoo’s Decker on Icahn: The “audacity of hope”?

icahn1.jpgAs volte faces go, the Yahoo-Carl Icahn slugfest-turned-lovefest is a definite keeper for some future annal of corporate history. Until last week, Yahoo couldn’t slam Icahn enough, mocking the activist investor’s knowledge of technology, calling his agenda risky, and pointing to his failure to articulate clear alternatives to a Microsoft deal.

But since they made nice on Monday, rest assured we’re going to hear nothing but a din of welcome notes from Yahoo, as they sell to shareholders the idea that Icahn and his two designees are good for the board.

Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock set the sweet, full-of-possibility tone about Icahn on Monday, and Yahoo President Sue Decker picked up where he left off in a CNBC interview today: