News Corp. recently discussed swapping its MySpace social-networking site in exchange for a large stake in Yahoo, according to published reports.
However, the status of the discussions remains uncertain because News Corp. made the proposal before Terry Semel resigned on Monday as Yahoo's chairman and CEO, according to reports published Wednesday by The New York Times and the U.K. Times.
Both newspapers attributed the information to anonymous sources. The New York Times reported that News Corp. discussed with Yahoo the idea of giving up MySpace in exchange for a 25 percent stake in the Internet giant. Meanwhile, the U.K. Times said News Corp. told Yahoo it wanted a 30-percent stake for MySpace.
With Yahoo's market capitalization at US$37.7 billion mid-morning Wednesday, the deal would put MySpace's value at between $9.4 billion and $11.3 billion.
News Corp. bought MySpace along with other Internet properties for US$580 million when it acquired Intermix Media in July 2005.
The U.K. Times, which is owned by News Corp., reported that its parent company is interested in the Yahoo stake as a way to gain "exposure to a far larger Internet-based business."
The New York Times characterized News Corp.'s overture as "informal" and as a "loose proposal" that hasn't generated "meaningful negotiations." The U.K. Times called the discussions "tentative" and potentially closed now that Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang has become its CEO.
Yahoo reportedly tried unsuccessfully to buy social-networking site Facebook for US$1 billion last year. In May of this year, the U.K.'s Sunday Telegraph reported that Yahoo had expressed interest in buying social-networking site Bebo for the same amount.
Yahoo executives have in the past year publicly acknowledged the company is weak in the social-networking space, ruled currently by MySpace.
In the U.S., MySpace attracted almost 80 percent of all visits to social-networking sites in April, followed in a very distant second place by Facebook with 11.5 percent, according to Hitwise Pty. Ltd. Bebo came in third place with 1.3 percent of visits. Yahoo 360, the company's social-networking site, took seventh place with 0.71 percent.
News Corp. declined to comment about Wednesday's reports. Yahoo didn't immediately respond to requests seeking comment.