TEXT OF COMMENTARY
BOB MOON: If you’ve followed the rather clumsy ballet between Yahoo and Microsoft in the past few weeks, you could probably see this one coming:
Some angry Yahoo investors have filed suit against CEO Jerry Yang and the Yahoo board. Shareholders are claming the board’s failure to control Yang has cost them billions of dollars in value.
The wedding might be off, but commentator and venture capitalist Paul Kedrosky says both Yang and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer could still use some counseling.
PAUL KEDROSKY: After weeks of not talking in the endless, $44 billion takeover struggle between Microsoft and Yahoo, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang finally got together last week in romantic Seattle. And then they noisily broke off the courtship in a barrage of press releases.
The two men are clearly hurt and confused at the breakup. Consider: Yahoo’s Yang apparently told Microsoft’s Ballmer on Saturday that he was willing to take $37 a share for Yahoo.
But Microsoft’s Ballmer is equally confused: He says he made a $33-a-share offer for Yahoo, which is $2 more than he had said previously. But Yahoo says that Microsoft’s Ballmer didn’t actually make the $33 offer in the meeting. Sure, it may have been said to Yahoo’s lawyers, but not to Yang directly. So Jerry Yang is hurt.
And it’s gotten worse since, with Jerry sending Steve love notes through the media. Meanwhile, shareholders — think of them as parents — have spanked Jerry for passing on Microsoft’s massive offer. So Jerry is giving plaintive interviews, saying that he is still open to talking, that he was confused about Microsoft’s $33-a-share offer, and that he still has feelings for Microsoft.
You see? It’s all He said / He said. The two people who should be talking directly to one another are talking right past one another.
Sure, Jerry Yang and Steve Ballmer are billionaire CEOs and generally unsympathetic, but the two of them need our help. Even if their dysfunctional confusion at the end of this tech-company courtship reminds me of texting teenagers — Plz talk to me! Plz talk to me! — we need to be there for them, at least for a hug.
After that we can fire them, of course. I mean, who turns down a $44 billion takeover offer? Who messes up a deal this big? Are they nuts?
MOON: Paul Kedrosky is editor of the Infectious Greed blog and a Senior Fellow at the Kauffman Foundation. (The Kauffman Foundation underwrites Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk.)
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