Will Yahoo Go to Pieces?

Last Updated Jul 2, 2008 7:37 PM EDT

Yahoo!The pressure is on Yahoo's management and board, and there's little chance that they are yodeling. According to the Washington Post, the Department of Justice has opened a "formal antitrust investigation" into the proposed partnership between Yahoo and Google, including both advertising and Internet messaging (which could help finally lead to IM interoperability):
Investigators are planning to demand documents not only from Google and Yahoo, but also from other large companies in the Internet and media industries, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Google and Yahoo officials have said since the deal's announcement that they would delay its implementation for a voluntary Justice Department review. But a formal investigation signals that the department may have found some cause for concern.
That will make even more bitter the news that Microsoft is apparently talking to media companies about acquiring Yahoo and breaking it up into pieces, with discussions including Time Warner and News Corp., among others.

From the pure strategic execution -- pardon the pun -- perspective, this is brilliant. With the DOJ frowning at the Yahoo-Google deal on one side, and investor Carl Icahn pushing for big board and management changes on the other, Yahoo may have no place left to move that will placate anyone, except those at the helm desperately trying to keep their jobs.

If Microsoft's plan passed muster with the government, then it would let the company get the part of Yahoo it really wanted without paying full price for the entire company. Sometimes you have to tip your hat, even if the results will still leave Google on top of the Internet and Microsoft wondering how it can lead from behind.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.