Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New Gig

One reason for the slowing pace of my posting here is a change in focus - I've moved from Clearwire to Avvo, Inc., an internet start-up in Seattle dedicated to helping consumers with the daunting task of finding a lawyer. It's fun stuff, but my new role will likely have very little to do with the M&A issues I've been dealing with over the last five years. I may post on corp dev topics from time to time, but I will still be writing my column in Corporate Dealmaker magazine and will be contributing to the Avvo blog.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Facebook and Microsoft

The long-awaited Microsoft-Facebook linkup was announced today, with my neighbors here in Redmond ponying up $240M for a minuscule 1.6% stake in Facebook.

While this deal values the fast-growing social networking site at $15B, I doubt valuation was much of an issue for Microsoft. Yes, it's huge for Facebook to get a massive infusion of cash with only nominal dilution, but Microsoft has more nuanced concerns. Whether MSFT gets a decent return on the quarter-billion invested is of far less concern than getting linkage with Facebook and beating out Google. Besides an expansion of an extant advertising deals, the remaining scope of the MSFT-Facebook linkage hasn't been disclosed.

Bottom line? Huge win for Facebook, although it won't be raising more capital at this valuation any time soon. It's also a win for Microsoft, which now gets to participate in Facebook's strategic upside, if not the financial upside it would have also gotten had it pulled the trigger a year or so ago.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ebay's Skype Writedown

Following up and tracking the success of deals some years on is not always a strong suit for corporate dealmakers - often it's on to the next deal before the ink is dry, with little need for the nostalgia of looking back.

Accountants, however, have no such luxury, and there is a certain discipline to tracking over time how good your deals really are. With that in mind, I note Ebay's $1.4B writedown of its Skype acquisition, accompanied by the departure of Niklas Zennstrom and the announcement that the earnout in the deal had only been one-third met. With the original purchase price of $2.6B and about $500M in earnout money, the charge represents nearly 50% of deal value.

Ebay may have some internal measures that indicate the deal was a success for strategic reasons, but by any objective outside view it was a bust. I hate to say I told you so, but . . .