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Yahoo's Propaganda Machine ( And How To Cover Themselves)

Tuesday, 6 May 2008 | 1:24 PM ET
Yahoo!'s headquarters in California.
Paul Sakuma
Yahoo!'s headquarters in California.

I've just watched the Sue Decker interview back for the third time this morning, listening to the nuances, and trying to figure out what the motivation is behind this unusual video.

And seeing as it was posted on the Yahoo-owned webcast, it smacks of a political propaganda video posted on a government controlled news outlet. It's a harsh assessment, but I think you'll agree when you analyze what is being said here.

I mean, does Yahoo really expect us to believe that the company didn't go to its major institutions with news of a raised Microsoft bid, after three months of back-and-forth, because the offer simply wasn't put in writing?

With the clock ticking, and the two sides glacially moving closer to a deal, and Yahoo's own admission that it had come back time and again with lower offers only to hear Microsoft continually standing pat, that at the precise moment that Microsoft finally DID budge, Yahoo decided not to share that salacious bit of info with its top investors? Come on.

It sounds an awful lot like Yahoo is trying to cover its fiduciary butt by notifying shareholders that the reason the deal fell through was not because of Yahoo's obstinance, or delusions of grandeur, but because of Microsoft's negotiating incompetence. Seriously, what kind of game is Yahoo playing here?

It's almost a kind of "gotcha" moment. Gee, a deal might happen guys, because once the institutions hear about this new offer at $33 they might pressure us to take it. Wait, we don't need to actually share it with them because it was never written down! Cool. Let's just keep saying Microsoft won't negotiate, or put something in writing, and maybe Microsoft will just walk away out of sheer frustration. Not to mention the bizarreness of the board agreeing on $37, only to have Yang and Filo tell Ballmer in person that THEIR price is still at $38.

You can't really blame Steve Ballmer here. He finds himself in the weird position of having to bid against himself with Yahoo's board and co-founders bidding against themselves. Microsoft raises to $33 and Yahoo won't move below $37. Or $38. Yahoo's institutions don't want Yahoo settling for anything less than what they think they can get. That's important, because if those institutions knew then what they know now, that Microsoft would actually walk away completely leaving Yahoo with nothing, I think they'd think differently about the whole deal.

Don't settle for anything less than $37, they might say, unless we could get $35, or $34, or $33 to prevent Microsoft from walking away all together. Ballmer's putting a 70 percent premium on the table, only to be met with bizarre boardroom behavior at Yahoo. How much is the guy supposed to take? So he called their bluff. And now Yahoo is in serious damage-control mode.

The whole thing smacks of gamesmanship, and not the good kind. Jerry Yang tells the New York Times he had "mixed feelings" about the Microsoft offer. Which one? The one in writing? Or the ones merely talked about?

The one thing all of this shows me is that Microsoft/Yahoo is not nearly over; that there has been no actual breakdown in negotiation. It's just that negotiations have moved locations: from the board room to the blogosphere, online, on the air, and in print, with both sides talking to the media, and letting us do the negotiations for them instead.

I still think a deal gets done.

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com

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