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June 19, 2007

Semel takedown trims chance of YHOO+MSFT?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:35 AM

What does the changing of the guard at Yahoo! signal for the chances of a deal with Microsoft (rumored most recently in early May) or another player?

Deal Journal, a Wall Street Journal blog, reads a lesser chance of a Microsoft partnership or acquisition in Yahoo!'s statement yesterday on the departure of CEO Terry Semel, even though the after-hours market seemed to suggest "investors think a blockbuster deal for the company is more likely now."

Semel said, "The board and I have long talked about the importance of ensuring a smooth succession in Yahoo's senior leadership -- and more recently, about the need for a leadership team committed to carrying Yahoo through its multi-year transformation."

Deal Journal asked, "Does that mean the former Hollywood executive wasn't 'committed to carrying Yahoo! through its multi-year transformation'? If not, is that because he thinks the company needs a deal to give it a competitive edge vis a vis the likes of Google?"

Likewise, DealBook, a New York Times newsletter, also posed the question: "Is the Internet giant in play?"

Semel's successor, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, addressed these questions in a conference call with analysts yesterday afternoon: "The board and I believe that Yahoo is, and can, and will be a vibrant independent company," he said.

Later in the call, Yang added, in response to a question, that partnering will be a part of the company's strategy: "[W]e believe we are a partner of choice. And we have proven that over the years. ... So I think partnering for us is a key strategic principle that we are going to operate against."

Yahoo's shares were down 40 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $27.72 in mid-afternoon trading.

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