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July 7, 2008 1:22 PM

Lots for Microsoft, Yahoo to talk about at upcoming elite Sun Valley business retreat

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


Yahoo's Jerry Yang and Google's Sergey Brin at the 2004 Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference.

With Yahoo, Microsoft and Carl Icahn waging a public campaign to win shareholder hearts and minds (and, most important, votes), a few more interesting reports surfaced this afternoon: One major Yahoo shareholder is said to be leaning toward Icahn's slate of director candidates. Meanwhile, any potential Yahoo-AOL deal would be on hold until after Aug. 1.

All of this as the titans of the online and media worlds head toward Sun Valley, Idaho, for the annual Allen & Co. deal-making retreat.

-- Kara Swisher quotes several unnamed sources describing a meeting last week between Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and Gordon Crawford, who controls the Capital Research Global Investors fund, owner of 6.5 percent of Yahoo shares:

"According to sources, Crawford told the Yahoo contingent that he was considering backing Icahn's new board slate -- although he has not yet firmly committed to it -- if the company did not engage with Microsoft over some sort of deal or find a suitable alternative."

-- A deal to combine Yahoo and Time Warner's online unit, AOL, is unlikely before the Yahoo shareholder meeting Aug. 1, according to this Reuters report, quoting an anonymous source "familiar with the negotiations." The same source tells Reuters talks between Yahoo and News Corp. for a combination with MySpace fell apart over price. Likewise, the source said Yahoo wanted $2.5 billion in annual revenue guarantees from Microsoft to do the partial search deal Microsoft had proposed. Microsoft never publicly specified how much it was willing to offer in guaranteed revenue, only describing it as "a three-year guarantee of higher monetization than Yahoo!'s Panama paid search system currently provides."

Will deals get done this week at the Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference? Several of the key players will be in close proximity during the five-day, super-exclusive media, entertainment and Internet business retreat.

According to this Associated Press story -- which posits that the current economic climate has a chill in the southern Idaho deal-making air -- guests at the conference include Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Hank Vigil, one of the company's top strategists, particularly focused on M&A and partnerships. CEO Steve Ballmer is not expected to attend, the AP reported, citing a copy of the guest list it obtained. Also scheduled to attend: Yang, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman, among others. Icahn, says the AP, is not on the guest list.

Maybe he and Steve Ballmer are at an even more exclusive retreat, plotting their next move.

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