The question of who will buy Yahoo is stubbornly staying at the top of the tech and telecom news, and the most recent twist suggests that Verizon may no longer be the front runner.
According to reports. Verizon's current bid of $3.5B or so isn't one of the higher ones. Other bidders in the mix include a group led by Quicken's Dan Gilbert and backed by Warren Buffett, TPG Capital LP, and a consortium led by Capital and Vista Equity Partners. And then of course there is AT&T, which is maneuvering its way into the mix.
Nobody is saying who the higher bidders are, only that the price tag is back up above $5B. It's not clear to me, however, that everyone is talking about the exact same set of assets with these prices. And it doesn't really matter yet, as this isn't even the last round.
Would an AT&T purchase of Yahoo make sense? Are they really feeling the pressure to follow Verizon down the digital advertising path taken with the AOL purchase? Or might they just want to make sure their rival doesn't get too far ahead -- in case the path turns out to be correct? At $4-5B, neither is really risking all that much here other than pride.
Yet it's hard to bet against Verizon here even now. They have the synergies and the more straightforward plan for what to do with the assets and talent that Yahoo represents. The private equity guys would have to conjure a better business model from the ashes of the old one, while AT&T would be starting mostly from scratch in combining the worlds of mobile and digital advertising.