Now Yahoo! has apparently gotten into the game of bidding for a piece of AOL. Whether AOL first approached MSN or vice-versa, I believe that AOL has very shrewdly played this whole minority stake investment.
TimeWarner has billions and billions in debt and CEO Richard Parsons has activist shareholder Carl Icahn breathing down his neck to boost the TW stock price.
Google gets huge amounts of traffic (and revenue) from its relationship with AOL. After the AOL-MSN talks rumors got out in the NY Post and then the Wall Street Journal, Google, reportedly with Comcast, put together a competing bid for a minority interest in AOL. And, as mentioned, now Yahoo! has joined the party of suitors.
Any way you slice it, AOL wins.
The reported amount of the Google-Comcast bid, which Parsons has dismissed as rumor, is $5 billion (Yikes!). Whatever the reality, MSN could afford to overpay, given that it has something like $50 or so billion in cash and needs to do something to boost traffic and would love to take that relationship away from Google.
I can't help but believe that this has all been skillfully calculated by AOL to create a bidding war. But whether that's true or this series of events is merely serendipitious for the once beleagured portal, there appears in fact to be a bidding war and someone will ultimately buy a stake.
Regardless of whom it is, it will be interesting to see how the relationship plays out.
And now for the shameless plug: Google, AOL and MSN will be giving keynotes at ILM:05.