Yahoo! Rumor Finds New Home, but No Sources

'Financial Times' picks up rumors of a Microsoft acquisition -- based on what, exactly?
Publish date:

The Business Press Maven has been bitterly critical of the New York Post over the past half year for trafficking in rumors about Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report taking over Yahoo! (YHOO) without sources, cause, good reason or a clue.

Ask me sometime and I'll tell you how I really feel, but here's the irony: Yahoo! reported after the close yesterday and guess what? The

New York Post

is finally silent about Microsoft committing an act there is no precedence for it committing. But guess what?

The Financial Times

picks up the

deflated ball and runs with it, forced by circumstance (the reporting of unsourced nonsense) to hedge its comments so ridiculously that The Business Press Maven nearly choked to death on his own righteousness.

They Just Don't Get Microsoft and Yahoo!

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In an otherwise sober article called "Yahoo's Woes," one that (save for one separate point) adequately captured the troubled case laid out by Yahoo! on its call, the


ended with this whopper:

"Investors' best hope for a rapid reversal in fortunes remains a bid. Microsoft, wanting to plug the gaping hole in its internet strategy, is still the obvious buyer. The software giant, however, either needs to get seriously desperate, or suddenly enjoy a shot of confidence that it would have a chance of running Yahoo's business any better."

Let us pause for dramatic effect. And, quick, someone give me the Heimlich!

According to


, Yahoo!'s best hope (not pipe dream, mind you) remains a bid by Microsoft, the so-called obvious buyer. To date, however, despite all the words spilled on the matter, there have been as many legitimate sources saying that The Business Press Maven would buy Yahoo! (or Microsoft, for that matter) for a few trinkets and a song, as Microsoft.

Even assuming there were sources to this rumor, look at how unlikely it is. Microsoft, after all, has never made an acquisition of such size. What will it take? According to


, Microsoft, which is doing very nicely, thank you, needs to "get seriously desperate." Uh, OK.



posits, they have to get hit by a thunderbolt that they can run Yahoo!, with some chronic challenges, better than Yahoo! itself. These are one-in-a-millions. Two of them, to be exact. And since these one-in-a-millions are harnessed to a rumor that has never been sourced to anyone well-placed, why publish such rank speculation? Why? It serves only to titillate and -- as a direct result -- continue to mislead investors, offering Yahoo! shareholders a hunk of false hope.

Unfortunately for those of us who reside on planet earth,

The Financial Times

was hardly the only offender. This MicroHoo! thing is like a verbal tick. Hey, it might happen one day, on the tenth of the month of Never. But before you believe the coy references, just make sure they are based on a single bit of decent evidence.

One of the

"Fast Money" Traders was asked a question about a possible deal: "What's up next for Yahoo!, does it get bought out here?"

A simple and accurate (funny how those two words go hand-in-hand) answer might be: "nothing around about a deal that you can hang a hat, even a visor, on right now." Instead one of the "Fast Money" traders trotted out the usual suspect: Microsoft. "It could be a great opportunity for Microsoft to finally step in," he said, as if Microsoft had actually been thinking about it. The "finally" is actually inserted only because the


has been running unsourced stories about the deal since, in the immortal words of Joe Pesci just before he gets wacked in


, Pikes Peak was a pimple.


The Financial Times

, which ran with the rumor before backpedaling from it in ridiculous fashion, the "Fast Money" trader did the same: "I'm not saying they are, but that's been the rumor for quite some time now." Unless it happens, though, he would not be a buyer of Yahoo!.

Uh, OK.

Anyhow, getting back to

The Financial Times

-- what else did it (and many others) miss?

To discover this, I want to point you toward an excellent piece by Therese Poletti in


. It is important as far as Yahoo! is concerned and as far as any other struggling company is concerned.

You know how The Business Press Maven always points out that while the business media always reports on announced layoffs as if they are a fait accompli, quite often companies must sweeten buyout offers and make additional charges. They don't save nearly as much money as they initially claim and the business media initially parrots. But the possible deal with Yahoo!, as Therese cannily points out in an article titled: "

Yahoo buries the news of its 'realignment'," is worse.

The announcement of firings was buried and termed a realignment. What does that mean? The word "layoff" is already a misleading euphemism, as these workers are presumably not being rehired. Or, if they are, shareholders should not be reacting as if the cost of their incomes will be saved. But a realignment? Therese asks the appropriate questions and The Business Press Maven, in high tribute, genuflects in her general direction.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page. For his "Business Press Maven� column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Fuchs appreciates your feedback;

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