Report: Former AOL CEO Miller trying to buy Yahoo

Former AOL CEO Jon Miller is reportedly trying to round up investors to buy all or part of Yahoo.

Jonathan Miller, the well-respected former AOL CEO, has been talking for months to potential investors interested in buying all or part of Yahoo, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Miller, abruptly ousted at AOL in 2006 after architecting a highly complex and, at the time, initially successful turnaround, has met with private equity investors and sovereign wealth funds to craft an offer of between US$20 and $22 per share for Yahoo, the Journal reported.

However, it's unclear if talks for the deal, which would be worth between $28 billion and $30 billion, have progressed or are continuing, the Journal reported, citing anonymous sources.

It's also unclear whether Miller has managed to involve Microsoft, which tried for three months to buy Yahoo before walking away in early May when it couldn't agree on a price with Yahoo's board.

Miller's chances of raising enough money to put together an offer are low, given the economic woes that have made banks less likely to lend money and made investors less willing to open their wallets, the Journal said.

Making the investment even riskier are Yahoo's ongoing corporate turmoil and financial and technical struggles, whose latest chapter was the announcement in mid-November that co-founder Jerry Yang plans to step down as CEO.

There has been much speculation over the possibility that Yahoo might get acquired now that its stock has lost so much of its value in recent months. It opened Tuesday at US$10.81 on the Nasdaq, down from a 52-week high of US$30.25. The stock rose after the Journal story appeared, hitting US$12.50, but had fallen to US$11.35 at around 2:30 p.m.

By comparison, Yahoo's stock closed at US$19.18 on Jan. 31, right before Microsoft announced its first acquisition offer for US$44.6 billion, a 62 percent premium. Due to investors' enthusiasm over the acquisition attempt, Yahoo's stock later rose to almost $30 per share, only to deflate after Microsoft withdrew its offer in May.

A spokeswoman for Velocity Interactive Group, an investment firm focused on digital media and communications where Miller is a partner, said the company didn't have an immediate comment about the Journal's article.

Yahoo spokeswoman Kim Rubey declined to comment, citing the company's policy not to comment on rumors or speculation.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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