Another day, another hare-brained scheme to buy Yahoo. This time, the player isn't Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, but former AOL CEO Jon Miller, who now runs a venture-capital fund. But the prospect of a deal seems as far off and fanciful as Microsoft, which spent most of the spring and summer trying to buy Yahoo, coming back to the negotiating table. Miller wants to buy Yahoo, but is having trouble coming up with the money, the Wall Street Journal reports. Is there no one serious who wants to buy this company?
Let us say it, since every other writer seems too kind: As CEO of AOL, Randy Falco is an utter embarrassment. Silicon Alley Insider recounts his perplexing performance in front of a crowd of media executives gathered for Advertising Week in New York. "Radio was supposed to die 50 years ago," Falco said. "The reason radio is still around is because of mobile. The reason broadcast will still be around 50 years from now is because of mobile. All of our businesses up here will continue to grow because of video applications on mobile." What?It's as if he thought that playing a game of buzzword bingo would masquerade as strategic thought. A television salesman by trade, Falco was plucked by Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes from NBC Universal to replace Jon Miller, in a universally derided move. A commonly held belief among insiders: Falco and Bewkes thought AOL would be sold off by now, with Falco moving on to some role at Time Warner's film and television properties. AOL has continued to embarrass. And so has Falco. The only question is which exit will come first.
Velocity Interactive Group, the venture-capital vehicle of former Fox Interactive CEO Ross Levinsohn and ex-AOL chief Jon Miller, has yet to raise a $250 million fund insiders say they've been seeking for six months and counting. Which is curious. Levinsohn and Miller tried to raise money on their own, but decided to merge with ComVentures, an established VC firm with $1.5 billion in assets under management. "Assets under management" isn't the same thing as "available cash," however. To have a free hand to invest, Miller and Levinsohn need their own pot of money. When will they get it?Now hardly seems like the time. The pension funds and college endowments which invest in VC funds have been pulling back, as of late. And investments in consumer Web startups — Miller and Levinsohn's specialty — are not looking as wise as they were a year ago. If the duo do raise money in this climate, it will be an impressive feat. If they don't? Then their second careers as venture capitalists may come to an abrupt end.
With former AOL CEO Jon Miller out of the running, thanks to Time Warner's last-minute meddling, sources with knowledge of the situation say they expect corporate raider Carl Icahn to name former entertainment executive Frank Biondi and former advertising executive Edward Meyer to Yahoo's board. [BoomTown]
In the banana-republic politics of America's public companies, anything less than a 99 percent "yes" vote is somewhat embarrassing. Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang should not congratulate himself on the result that 18.2 percent of shareholder votes were withheld from his reelection to the board. Still, it's good enough that Yang can safely attend the Olympics in Beijing — and stick around as Yahoo's caretaker CEO. At least until March 2009, that is, when former AOL CEO Jon Miller's noncompete expires, and the talented Internet executive can take the helm of Yahoo unencumbered by old ties to Time Warner. (Photo by Yodel Anecdotal)
Right as former AOL CEO Jon Miller gets a glowing profile in the Los Angeles Times, his former boss strikes back at him in the most callow way possible, by blocking his appointment to the Yahoo board. Was it not enough for Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes to ignominiously sack Miller two years ago, replacing him with the hated and ineffective Randy Falco, who instantly sent AOL's recovering business into a tailspin? Of course not! The media boss is enforcing Miller's noncompete agreement, blocking him from even working at Yahoo as a director — after Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, who championed Miller's cause, had already announced he would join the board.
Former AOL CEO Jon Miller, reportedly Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's favorite to lead the company's new online division, withdrew his name from consideration yesterday because he'll soon be joining Yahoo's board. So if not Miller, who's going to take on the task of saving Microsoft by building its presence on the Web? The top names under consideration:
Everyone wants a piece of beloved former AOL CEO Jon MIller, who was oh so unfairly fired, loyalists say, by Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. First gossips suggested Miller as a fit to replace ineffectual Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang. Then, on Monday, Yang himself said Miller would fill one of Carl Icahn's new seats on the Yahoo board. Now, a source tells Kara Swisher that Miller is "one of the top outside candidates on the list" to head Microsoft's new Online Services division. Maybe everyone can stop moaning about the way Bewkes handled Miller's dismissal now?
In an entirely punctuated memo posted to Yahoo's corporate blog and the SEC, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang — or his ghostwriters — declared that yesterday's agreement to give corporate raider Carl Icahn three board seats and avert a proxy fight allows Yahoo "to get back to the business at hand." But while Yahoo will soon enough be able to focus on doing what it does best — losing market share to Google and talent to startups — Yang and the board still have one more task at hand: filling out its expanded board with Icahn-approved nominees. Bet that one of the names will be fired AOL chairman and CEO Jon Miller. Though not included on Icahn's original slate of alternative directors, Yang mentioned Miller by name in his memo as a potential new board member.
If corporate raider Carl Icahn ever had any hope of convincing major Yahoo shareholders like Legg Mason's Bill Miller to back his alternative slate against the Yahoo board in a proxy fight, he needed a plan B in case a sale to Microsoft didn't work out. As Kara Swisher puts it, he needed "a solid management team and a cogent plan." For two reasons: One, because without an alternative to a merger with Microsoft, Microsoft would own all the chips in any merger negotiations. Two, by not naming a replacement Yahoo management team, Icahn left major shareholders with the impression that he himself would control the company after winning a proxy fight. Shareholders are unhappy with Yang & Co., but they tell Swisher that "taking such a major step as dumping them and leaving the company in Icahn’s hands — even for a short time he will be there — is decidedly more risky." So if it was so important that he do so, why didn't Icahn ever name a nominee for Yang's job? Because he was caught in a classic Catch-22.
Before creating the world's most comprehensive list of videogame cheats, Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis worked at AOL under then-CEO Jon Miller. Calacanis joined AOL only after it bought Weblogs Inc. from him for $25 million and since Miller led that acquisition, eventually invested in Mahalo and now sits on the company's board, Calacanis is naturally a little biased in his feelings toward Miller, whom Calacanis considers a mentor. Still, when we heard talk of Miller as a contender to be Yahoo's next CEO, we figured Calacanis's opinions would at least be entertainingly biased. Our email exchange:
Yahoo shares are almost below $20 in morning trading and as the company approaches its August 1 annual meeting, Yahoo's directors have finally begun to fear for their jobs and their reputations. They're negotiating with Yahoo's major shareholders and, along with agreeing to renew talks with Microsoft and approach AOL for acquisition, some on the board are offering to promote CEO Jerry Yang into a non-executive chairmanship and fire Yahoo president Sue Decker. Reporter's reporter Kara Swisher reports that shareholders and some board members have already come up with a wish list of names for the top jobs.
Jonathan Miller, the man who was ungracefully booted as AOL CEO, and Ross Levinsohn, the former Fox Interactive Media chief who was never quite as in charge of MySpace as he would have liked, will form a new group at VC firm ComVentures, SAI reports. They're callng it Velocity Interactive Group. The pair plan to invest $20 million to $30 million in digital media startups in 2008 and already, they plan to close as many four deals in February. Wait, doesn't this sound familiar?