He said, she said

If you’re getting lost in all the nasty rhetoric between Yahoo, Microsoft and Carl Icahn, here’s our primer on what the fuss is all about.

They’re trading insults (again) after the latest deal talks broke down (again). Microsoft’s top lawyer is pressing the antitrust issue in Yahoo’s Google search partnership in Washington today, while Yahoo’s top lawyer accused Microsoft of trying to force a fire sale.

Don’t forget, this comes after Monday’s war of words over the latest Microsoft proposal to acquire Yahoo search, which was floated with the help of billionaire activist investor Icahn and rejected by Yahoo (again). Here’s what they’re saying about that deal:

 Carl Icahn  Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer  Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang 

Source: Statements from Yahoo, Microsoft and Icahn

Microhoo latest: Icahn and his Nine Merry Men

He talked, he cajoled, he wrote stern letters, and issued threatening press releases. Now, it’s really on: Activist investor Carl Icahn filed a proxy on Monday to nominate a slate of nine directors to replace Yahoo’s board and to oust co-founder and current CEO Jerry Yang.

This came after a weekend dust-up in which Yahoo’s board on Saturday night rejected a joint proposal by Icahn and Microsoft for Yahoo to sell its search business to Microsoft and fork over the rest of the company to Icahn.

Icahn, who owns around 5 percent of Yahoo, filed a list that included a good share of well known media investor types, including former Viacom chief Frank Biondi and Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks pro basketball team.

Yang having a bad day in Sun Valley?

Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang — the target of a proxy battle by billionaire investor Carl Icahn and a takeover offensive by Microsoft — just arrived in Sun Valley for Allen & Co’s mogul confab. It looks like he wishes he was elsewhere.

Yang was also spotted by the Sun Valley Inn with former Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons, probably asking for advice on how to handle Icahn.


(Photo: Reuters / Rick Wilking / (l to r) Google co-founder Larry Page, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, Google co-founder Sergey Brin)

The drama builds in Hollywood


We’re once again wondering who will blink first in Hollywood.

The Screen Actors Guild and the major firm and television studios are having another pow-wow today, and the subject is an ominous sounding “final offer” that management has presented to the union.

As we have seen, the talks so far haven’t gotten around the same sticky issues that prompted a strike this winter by the Writers Guild of America strike. So a take-it-or-leave-it offer by the studios doesn’t sound too promising if the entertainment biz is to avoid another strike.

But wait! SAG executive director and chief negotiator, Doug Allen, suggested on the eve of his union’s formal response that the door to further deal-making remained open. He had this to say in an interview with Reuters:

Sun Valley at the bar


Camping out at the Sun Valley Lodge bar on day 2 of Allen & Co’s annual Sun Valley mogul fest — a time honored tradition — is kind of like Disneyland for folks like us.

Slightly to extremely inebriated tycoons of the media and tech industry wander the lobby huddled in small groups chatting about stuff that few will remember in a few hours, while reporters try to keep pace with the liquor consumption and the conversation.

A quick snapshot:

    Google co-founder Sergey Brin on Yahoo: “Good company, good partner. A lot of excitement going on. For recent events, talk to the CEO.” We think he meant Yahoo’s Yang, who has yet to show up. Brin then realizes that standing next to him is Sony Executive Deputy President Katsumi Ihara. Ihara to Brin: “We called you last year about something and we never heard from you!” Brin to Ihara: “I have something for your TVs.” Out of nowhere, Sony CFO Rob Wiesenthal jumps in to rescue Ihara. Fun’s over. While I was chatting up Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg jumped in: “If he offered cable service in New York City, I’d switch in a second!” Brian fires back: “Let me tell you. Here’s the next President of the United States.” (We think he meant the next next President) Winner of high wattage table of the night:  Google co-founder Larry Page, Legg Mason’s Bill Miller (Yahoo investor), former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel, Yahoo President Sue Decker, Davis Advisors’s Christopher Davis, Sergey Brin. In response to a question about what everyone talked about, Brin tells the AP reporter Jeremy Herron that he learned about money markets. 

(Photo: Reuters/Rick Wilking / (l to r) Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google’s Sergey Brin, Allen & Co.’s Nancy Peretsman at Sun Valley 2007)

Neither wind, rain nor a classroom will keep iPhone fans away

iphone.jpgHere we go…

Two days before the iPhone’s launch, fans around Asia are queuing up to buy Apple’s latest offering. They don’t seem to care that it’s raining or freezing cold or if lining up early means missing work or school.

The July 11 launch will be the first chance, after all,  for Asian consumers to own an iPhone.

“I’ve told my professor I was going to go buy an iPhone, and he gave me permission,” said Hiroyuki Sano, a 24-year-old graduate student who early on Tuesday arrived in rainy Tokyo from Nagoya to be first in line. Sano, speaking to Reuters, and incidentally wearing a T-shirt with an Apple logo, described his professor as an equally big Apple fan. “He sent me off cheerfully.”

Valley of the moguls

Swan smallerThey call it the Duck Pond, but it’s actually teaming with (vicious) swans. It’s considered a big media and tech powwow, but a broad swath of global corporate titans of finance and politics round out the guest list.

It’s the 26th annual Allen & Co Sun Valley conference, where high-wattage huddles transpiring on the tranquil resort grounds among stunningly rich business people swathed in questionable leisure wear could end up in big deals months from now. The legend springs from the track record: AOL and Time Warner, Walt Disney and CapCities/ABC, Google and YouTube are all said to have gotten started here.

In between knitting (!), yoga, white-water rafting and golfing, and bridge (!) games execs like Google’s trio Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin mix it up Disney’s Bob Iger, Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch.

Happy Monday! Your stock rating has just been cut

nyse.jpg It wasn’t exactly an auspicious start to the week for entertainment companies.

Right out of the box, Lehman Brothers analyst Anthony DiClemente cut his rating on News Corp, Disney, CBS and Time Warner. Not one of them is now rated above “equal weight” by the broker.  And he stuck the whole entertainment sector with a negative rating.

What’s the deal, DiClemente? Well, he points out that television and film companies are barreling toward the same sort of problems that have created such headaches for the music business. Remember how the major music labels seemed so ill-prepared for that whole Internet thing?

Yahoo in the news, again

carlicahn.jpgDoes anyone love Yahoo? It’s difficult to say. But everyone sure does love talking about Yahoo.

After a flurry of media and blog reports this week (including ours) on whether Microsoft is holding new talks with media companies about Yahoo, AllThingsDigital turns to the looming proxy battle between Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and activist shareholder Carl Icahn on Aug. 1.

Kara Swisher reports that Yahoo is contemplating offering two board seats to Icahn to assuage his demands for a new slate of board members. The problem though is that Icahn wants at least four, according to ATD.

Buying on the rumor; selling the rest of the time

nasdaq.jpgYahoo’s stock price was rescued (yet again) by rumors that Microsoft is getting ready to bid for the web company’s search business (yet again).

The shares had looked set to fall below $19.18 on Wednesday — the level they stood at on January 31 before Microsoft first announced a takeover bid for Yahoo. But thanks to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo shares jumped about 6 percent in electronic trading early in the morning.

If this reversal of fortune sounds familiar, it should. These days, Yahoo’s stock seems more likely to rise on speculation about possible deals than anything having to do with its actual business. Check back on a MediaFile posting from June 24 that points out Yahoo shares jumped 15 percent after TechCrunch reported that it was back in takeover talks with Microsoft.