Who will run Yahoo?

yahoo-sign.jpgWho’s going to run Yahoo?

There are myriad answers to that question, but AllThingsD suggests that Ross Levinsohn, the former head of News Corp’s Fox Interactive Media Group, and partner, former AOL Chief Jon Miller, are heavily mentioned as the kind who might get a crack at it.

Miller’s an interesting choice and one wonders if joining the company would push Yahoo closer to an AOL deal. Miller wasn’t immediately reachable on Monday night.

Meanwhile there’s no guarantee that Jerry Yang, who is still in charge, is going anywhere. In fact, on Monday, Yahoo itself worked to rally shareholder support in the face of a proxy battle with Carl Icahn, saying the his plan for the company’s future was “ill-defined”, and questioned whether Microsoft was ever serious about a full-scale merger.

Yahoo annual shareholder meeting in Silicon Valley on Aug. 1 — where Icahn is running a slate of directors to replace Yahoo’s board and remove Yang — promises fireworks.


Keep an eye on:

* Microsoft plans to cut the price of its best-selling Xbox 360 Pro model by $50, to $299 in the next few weeks. (Reuters )

Battle of egos at Yahoo, Microsoft

Yahoo shares have fallen 20 percent since talks with Microsoft broke up, and some shareholders are blaming big egos for the failure.

Robert Hagstrom, a portfolio manager at Legg Mason Capital Management, the third-biggest institutional shareholder of Yahoo, said the only way to try to catch up with Google is to put Microsoft and Yahoo together:dynasty.jpg

I thought the dynamic was great. Unfortunately, personalities got involved, egos got involved and that I think disrupted negotiations. I was shocked, shocked that Microsoft walked away.
Microsoft’s problem is that 80 percent of its business is going to go away one day… Microsoft has to figure a way to get a lot of eyeballs. Well, who’s got the most eyeballs after Google? Yahoo. I didn’t see why this couldn’t go together.

Sue Decker’s Super Powers

decker.jpgYahoo’s not-so-secret reorganization got its official nod today, with three new divisions created to centralize operations and report to Sue Decker.
Jerry Yang still stars as Chief Executive in the company’s statement, giving his blessing to moves he said will accelerate Yahoo’s ability to make money off the web.
Decker herself told us that the new organizational structure reflects absolutely no change to her status or power within the organization: “I am responsible for the business and Ari (CTO Ari Balogh) is responsible for the technology and engineering.”

Wall Street, however, thinks Sue may be too modest in her self-assessment. We spoke to several analysts who stressed her rise to prominence and the long-held assumption (at least since last June, when Yang took over from Terry Semel) that Decker was still being groomed for CEO-dom.
Here’s what some of them said:

Jeffrey Lindsay of Sanford C. Bernstein:
“It begs the question, what is Jerry Yang doing? … It looks like there has been a significant shift in power towards Ms. Decker. Clearly if there are three new groups reporting to her that would suggest to us that she’s taking a larger role in operations.”
“It’s hard to see what significant difference it’s going to make. Certainly previous reorganizations haven’t achieved a great deal. Reorganizations at most large Internet companies don’t seem to achieve very much, so we’re not terribly optimistic.”
Colin Gillis of Canaccord Adams:
“Either way that’s not the change that certain investors were seeking …We certainly see Sue taking an increasingly active role in the company and Jerry probably likes his Chief Yahoo title after what’s been a very grueling year.”
“Our take is that this reorganization is driven by Sue. Sue’s got to have a little bit of time here. If this reorganization can get pulled off without disrupting the business momentum (i.e. Yahoo doesn’t miss expectations or lower forecasts) … then points to her for that and that would be a success.”

Microhoo: reading the tea leaves

tea.jpgWith Yahoo shares trading just above $20, investors must be desperate for any sign that buyout talks with Microsoft could be resuscitated. It’s been relatively quiet since Yahoo struck the Google ad deal — with nary a peep from the usually loquacious activist investor Carl Icahn, who has been blogging about CEO pay but keeping silent on where he will take his Yahoo proxy battle.

So it’s no surprise that Yahoo shares jumped as much as 15 percent on Tuesday after TechCrunch reported that Microsoft and Yahoo are back in takeover talks, citing multiple sources at both companies.

But investors’ hopes were short-lived with CNBC quickly knocking down that rumor, saying its source thinks there are no new negotiations between Microsoft and Yahoo.

Who’s paying for all that Coke on American Idol?

kevin-martin2.jpgIf it wasn’t sufficiently clear that Ford is paying for those Mustangs on TV, or who’s supplying all that Coca-Cola to the American Idol judges, the Federal Communications Commission may make everyone involved in this obfuscation ‘fess up.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the FCC is expected to launch a formal proceeding this week to consider rules for proper disclosure of what the industry calls product placement: the frequently annoying inclusion of brand names into scripts for TV shows, movies and, according to some, novels.
Some ideas under consideration include requiring TV shows to put up a notice similar to the ones used by political candidates in their campaign ads. The Journal says U.S. advertisers, who are already shelling out several billion dollars a year on these stealth ads, are opposed to the idea.
We can’t help but question whether such notices would effectively become a second plug for a product, at least in the minds of consumers. Or does the explicitness of it all reduce any potential “cool” factor of having your vacuum cleaner featured in a Saturday Night Live skit? 

Keep an eye on:

    Beatles representatives are in talks with both Activision and MTV Games to create a Beatles-themed video game in a move that could pave the way for a broader licensing of the Fab Four’s catalogue. (Financial Times) MySpace is STILL worth more than Facebook, according to a TechCrunch analysis. Oh, and even more executives have defected from Yahoo than even they originally thought. (TechCrunch)

They’re feuding at Live Nation

madonna.jpgThings have gotten tense over at Live Nation. An internal feud at the concert promoter could end with Chairman Michael Cohl resigning.

The Wall Street Journal says Cohl is currently negotiating his resignation, having fought with Chief Executive Michael Rapino for weeks over so-called “360 deals.” In such deals, Live Nation gives superstars hefty upfront payments in exchange for financial rights in nearly all their business. Think Madonna and U2 and Jay-Z.

It seems, according to the reports, fairly simple: Cohl wants to sign more of these deals and Rapino wants the pace of these signings to slow; the board tells them to work out their differences; Cohl heads out the door.

Growl! Tiger’s absence no fun for networks, advertisers

tiger.jpgThere was much written in the sports pages (and in some cases the business pages) about Tiger Woods’ decision to miss the rest of the golf season and undergo reconstructive knee surgery.  

His absence is a big deal for sports fans – not to mention marketers and TV networks. After all, he is the biggest American sports machine since Michael Jordan.   

 ”Much like Michael Jordan did (Woods) has the power of drawing in the more casual viewer or participant to the sport,” Stifel Nicolaus analyst Thomas Shaw told Reuters. “He has the ability of driving some participation. It gets people excited to get out and dust off the clubs and play some.”

XM and Sirius: Weren’t they merging or something?

xmsr.jpg Finally, some movement.

It seems that the head of U.S. Federal Communications Commission Kevin Martin will support Sirius Satellite Radio’s proposed purchase of rival XM Satellite Radio.

The Washington Post and others are reporting that Martin decided to support the deal after the companies agreed to concessions intended to prevent the new company from raising prices or stifling competition among radio makers.

A decision has been a long time coming. Seventeen months ago the two companies announced they would merge, bringing entertainers such as Oprah Winfrey and shock jock Howard Stern under the same banner. The Justice Department approved the deal in March, but the companies are still waiting for the FCC.

Google victorious?

nascar.jpgBack in May, we reported that Google was in the driver’s seat when it came to Microsoft and Yahoo’s on-again, off-again merger talks. Well, Thursday’s news suggests that Google has crossed the finish line — in first place.

Yahoo turned down what sources said was a $35/share offer from Microsoft for a 16 percent equity stake, choosing instead to seal a search advertising deal with Google for up to 10 years.

While Yahoo estimated a $250 million to $450 million boost to cash flow in the first year of the Google deal, and said the annual revenue opportunity was $800 million, Wall Street was skeptical.

Yahoo and Microsoft, or, when is dead really dead?

When Microsoft first said it was ending talks to buy Yahoo, many people thought, “well, that’s the end of it.” Zombie movie fans, on the other hand, know that a dead body can get up and walk again. And walk again it did!

But you have to believe The New York Times when it says you can lay the corpse to rest. And that’s just what the Times Dealbook said about Yahoo and Microsoft on Thursday evening:

The talks are dead. Really, this time they are dead. Yahoo is preparing to announce that it has ended its talks with Microsoft over a search-related deal as well as the sale of the entire company, people involved in the discussions said. Yahoo is expected to move forward with an advertising pact with Google as early as today, these people said. How did we get to this point?