Microsoft to provide an assist to potential Yahoo buyers: Report

The long and troubled Microsoft-Yahoo partnership is continuing to evolve. Microsoft is said to be meeting with private equity firms considering buying Yahoo to let them know it will back their play financially.

There's a new Re/code report that claims Microsoft execs are meeting with private equity firms that are considering buying Yahoo to let them know "the company might be willing to lend significant financing to their efforts."

This doesn't mean Microsoft itself is interested in buying Yahoo. If true, it more likely means Microsoft wants to ensure that whichever company does end up buying Yahoo will remain friendly to Microsoft.

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How Microsoft dodged the Yahoo bullet

It was five years ago this month that Microsoft officially dropped its plan to acquire Yahoo for $47.5 billion. In hindsight, losing that battle was the best thing that could have happened to Microsoft.

Even though Yahoo has tried its best to wriggle out of its 10-year search partnership with Microsoft, it's still party to it to some degree. And based on how Microsoft execs have talked about Bing's long (long) slow road to profitability, it seems Microsoft's search pact with Yahoo has played a measurable role in achieving that goal.

I'd be interested to know how much of Bing's in-the-black status is attributable to Yahoo search contributions (versus Microsoft no longer needing to spend so much on search servers and other infrastructure). I doubt we'll ever know...

I am just going to leave this historical tidbit out there, for what it's worth. Charles Songhurst, former CEO Steve Ballmer's right-hand man on the Microsoft-Yahoo search deal, did note at one point (in his bio, no less) that he helped save Microsoft $48 billion by playing a role in derailing Microsoft's near attempt to buy Yahoo back in 2009. (Songhurst left Microsoft in 2013.)

The "new" Microsoft is a very partnership-forward company. But it's also very much a profit-conscious one, too.

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