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July 14, 2008

Carl Icahn and Microsoft finally respond to Yahoo characterization of the "Friday Offer"

Posted by David Hunter at 8:07 PM ET.

Since the whole point of the “Friday Offer” from Microsoft and Carl Icahn to Yahoo’s board of directors seemed to be to build support for Icahn’s proxy fight for control of Yahoo, I was surprised that Microsoft and Icahn didn’t have a rapid reaction PR team ready to counter Yahoo’s characterization of the whole episode. Unlike the Yahoo folks, they apparently took the weekend off but got it into gear today.

First, Carl Icahn released a rather strangely written letter to Yahoo shareholders filled with fulminations and occasional uppercase exhortations (e.g. “DON’T BE FOOLED”). The gist, other than that Mr. Icahn is grumpy and is going to the mattresses in the proxy fight, is the Icahn version of the negotiation timeline and details of the deal offered to Yahoo’s board on Friday. Key points:

The first item is hard to judge without more details, but seems meaningless in view of Yahoo’s currently declining search share. The second item is merely humorous.

Microsoft, by way of contrast, issued a dignified response titled “Microsoft Sets the Record Straight” which is mostly about Microsoft’s version of the negotiation timeline, but also states that “Microsoft’s proposal did not include changes to Yahoo!’s governance.” This discrepancy with the Icahn version leads Henry Blodget to suggest that “it now seems as though Microsoft was either used by Carl Icahn or is throwing Carl Icahn under a bus in an attempt to restart search talks.”

Frankly, at this stage the atmosphere is so poisoned that I don’t expect any kind of deal is possible unless Icahn wins his proxy fight. I will hazard no prediction on that, but have to observe that this whole weekend farce cannot have done Mr. Icahn much good with the Yahoo shareholders who have held on to this point.

Filed under Acquisitions, Coopetition, Microsoft, Yahoo

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