Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Microsoft Fishes in Silicon Valley for New Yahoo Board Members


According to a source with knowledge of the situation, as part of the preparation for a possible proxy fight it is preparing to wage against Yahoo, Microsoft has been angling in Silicon Valley for prominent techies to serve on a board it must nominate.

If Microsoft (MSFT) does move ahead–which is still a big if–it must name a new slate of directors to replace the current Yahoo (YHOO) board, which has rejected the software giant’s initial unsolicited bid of $31 a share.

Microsoft has until almost the ides of March–the 13th, actually, but BoomTown always likes to sprinkle in a little dramatic history here and there–to offer up its own board.

One well-known tech figure contacted by Microsoft about a possible director’s seat on such a board said the software giant seemed concerned with having members who had deep ties to the tightly knit tech community in Silicon Valley.

This person said they would likely turn down an offer if made.

It is not clear how many important tech players Microsoft can land, given the loyalty to a Silicon Valley icon like Yahoo, but it has to try.

Why? Obviously, to soften the image of an invader from the north. Microsoft’s HQ is in Redmond, Wash.

That is especially important, since Microsoft has always and continues to be considered an outsider in the Bay area, despite its campus in Mountain View, Calif., which is not far from Yahoo or rival Google.

Such movements are part of the proxy Kabuki, of course, and many wonder exactly how serious Microsoft is in its efforts to win Yahoo the hard way. Tough proxy battles are tough going, complex and, most of all, rain uncertainty down on both companies involved.

That’s probably why Microsoft’s top angler–Bill Gates–positioned the company as both withholding and olive-branch-offering in comments about Yahoo this past week.

On Monday, Gates went more with a stoic John Wayne approach, when he told the Associated Press: “We sent them a letter and said we think that’s a fair offer. There’s nothing that’s gone on other than us stating that we think it’s a fair offer. … They should take a hard look at it.”

Then on Tuesday, in an interview with CNET, after a speech he gave at Stanford University, Gates turned on the geek-loving charm: “[Yahoo CEO and Co-Founder] Jerry Yang, to his credit, has kept a lot of very top engineers that have been just doing their work and improving those things. That’s why we see the combination as so powerful. … We think the combination with Yahoo would accelerate things in a very exciting way, because they do have great engineers and they have done a lot of great work.”

(Thanks to Gizmodo for the cool techie fishing illustration above.)