COMMENTARY - AOL is said to be exploring a possible deal with Yahoo which would leave Tim Armstrong as CEO in charge of a combined company. Upon hearing that one I nearly passed a cheese sandwich through my nose.
After the original rumor hit the wires on Friday, CNBC sent out a tweet shooting down the story. I'll trust CNBC's reporting on this one. You can imagine that Yahoo's institutional shareholders, already furious about the declining value of their stock, would scream bloody murder if their company's increasingly out-of-touch board of directors ever agreed to pursue this stinker.
But goofy is as goofy does and given how things work in the technology industry, keep in mind that everybody talks with everyone about everything. Even when deals that sound so dubious one assumes that high-powered executives of (reasonably) sane mind would never sign off on anything so utterly bizarre. But if that indeed were the case, Time-Warner would have never agreed to pair with AOL while Yahoo would have kept its distance from the likes of Broadcast.com. Instead they agreed to a couple of the worst boondoggles in tech history. It's purely coincidence but when you draw the Venn diagrams, look who turns up in the common overlap: none other than AOL and Yahoo. And now they are back at it, reportedly thinking about doing something even more mind-numbingly stupid. Yowza.
These are two big companies suffering from acute identity crises. What does AOL stand for anymore? With the passing of the dial-up era and its spinoff from Time-Warner, most people wouldn't have a clue how to answer that question. That's a symptom of the company's deeper problem. And despite bigger and better assets, Yahoo finds itself in a similar funk. Still, if a corporate marriage between these Yahoo and AOL ever did come to pass, the peanut gallery would have a ball watching Armstrong try and navigate his way safely through the shoals. I've stayed on the sidelines while the Mike Arrington-Arianna Huffington novella played out the last couple of weeks. While this story changes seemingly from one day to the next, the sloppy airing of dirty corporate laundry doesn't help enhance Armstrong's reputation. With the troops in disarray, AOL could use a decisive George Patton type, not the second coming of Jimmy Carter in Dockers.
Give Armstrong credit for pursuing his vision. He is reported to have been keen on an arrangement with Yahoo for quite some time. With the ouster of Carol Bartz as CEO - who would surely have told him to F*** off - Armstrong reportedly wants to reopen talks about a deal which would put him in charge. That scenario elicited the quote du jour from Karsten Weide, an industry analyst with IDC. In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Weide observed that "two turkeys don't make an eagle."
Not even a platypus, for that matter.