Search News Desk
Will AOL Be Part of Google, Yahoo, or Maybe Microsoft?
Negotiations Are Reportedly Ongoing
Oct. 15, 2005 02:45 PM
The latest reports have Yahoo entering the fray for a possible acquisition of America Online from Time Warner. This follows reports that Microsoft was interested, which prompted interest from search leader Google. Microsoft had originally proposed making its MSN toolbar as the default search toolbar for the AOL community, an aggressive move that demonstrates Redmond's continued commitment to quash any and all competition to its long dominance of the desktop software environment.
No one was available to comment on these reported negotiations, and it is expected that no decision will be reached quickly. Time Warner's interest in ridding itself of AOL is prompted by the stain the AOL acquisition ultimately gave to the Time Warner brand, due to the dot-com crash but especially to financial irregularities in the way revenues and expenses were booked in the AOL division, which led to several tens of billions of dollars of losses by the parent company a few years back.
In short, the AOL/Time Warner merger, engineered primarily by then-AOL CEO Steve Case and then-TW head Gerald Levin, has been deemed to be spectacularly unsuccessful, having dragged down TW's stock price significantly in recent years. The AOL ticker symbol has now been replaced and Time Warner is back to being more of a traditional media company, albeit with significant revenues from the cable television business.
TW has been pressured recently by shareholder and well-known influencer Carl Icahn, who says the best investment TW could make right now is to buy back portions of its own stock. Yet despite all the AOL criticism past and present, the division is reportedly generating positive cash flow on the order of $1 billion per year, as hundreds of thousands of dedicated non-technical users continue to rely on it as their gateway to the Internet.
With Google, Yahoo, and MSN all continuing to believe that ultimate leadership in the search arena is far from a settled issue, Icahn's pressuring of TW combined with AOL's unsavory legacy at TW headquarters have combined to create a wealth of speculation as to whom, if anyone, will end up buying it. This may simply be another sign of a renascent bubble, as acquisition of the AOL user base will hardly qualify as a leading-edge technological move or of a high percentage of overall Internet and Web users. Yet it's easy enough to stampede cattle, and it appears as if The Big Three search companies are presently "mooving" toward AOL today.