Two key Icahn 'dream team' members may join Yahoo's board
If the door is going to be left open for a possible future merger of Yahoo and Microsoft, someone's going to have to volunteer to plant their feet there. Today, it appears a Microsoft favorite and Viacom's former CEO may do the honors.
Early reports this morning from multiple sources, including The Wall Street Journal, indicate that the two individuals Yahoo agreed with Icahn Partners to allow for nomination to its Board of Directors, will be former Universal Studios and former Viacom CEO Frank Biondi and former Nextel chief and founder John Chapple. Carl Icahn himself would not be nominated.
Yahoo spokespersons declined comment on the matter to BetaNews this morning, though word could come of an agreement later today.
Though Biondi rose in prominence in the entertainment world through Universal, he became a household name -- at least among households with substantial stock investments -- during the 1990s. He was the president of Viacom during what was then the biggest and most contentious merger in history, the bidding war for Paramount. In the fall of 1993, Biondi appeared to Paramount to be the right person to lead the studio -- which had also become one of the world's largest publishers, owning Simon & Schuster and Prentice Hall -- in its planned transition into an electronic media powerhouse.
But bidding for a public company put Paramount in play, and with blood in the water, former Fox studio chief and then QVC chairman Barry Diller came to play. For Biondi and his boss at the time, Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, to fend Diller off, they had to enlist the help of then blockbuster-company Blockbuster Video, to enable a deal valued at $8.4 billion that shareholders would approve over Diller's counter-offer.
Biondi's experience as the deal-maker in what may still be recognized as the most difficult merger negotiation in history, didn't leave him with any lasting friendships at Viacom: the notoriously fickle Redstone dismissed him in June 1994. But if a Yahoo + Microsoft deal is ever going to be consummated, there may be no more vital resource than Biondi in making it happen. Keep in mind, he knows a few things about third-party support...and Time Warner may yet become, at some point, a willing partner.
Currently, Biondi is a senior advisor with WaterView Advisors, LLC, helping companies to acquire capital...and that includes by way of mergers and acquisitions. In late 2006, however, WaterView became the target of criticism after its own partners lost as much as 61% of their investments on account of apparently bad choices.
John Chapple, meanwhile, is the one prospective board member who has the distinction of having been on Microsoft's originally proposed proxy slate (which ended up never being recommended to shareholders) and Icahn's. Currently he leads a group called Hawkeye Investments, LLC; but in 2000, Chapple and former cellular company founder Craig McCaw took a cue from Steve Jobs (whose second company, after his dismissal from Apple, was called NeXT) and founded Nextel Partners. Together, they established one of the world's most innovative service providers; but as was the case after AT&T's purchase of McCaw in 1995, Chapple decided not to hang on as any kind of vice president in charge of something-or-rather.
Chapple's best quality, it's said, may be his amiability -- he's not known for being fierce or irascible. But his brightest accomplishments have usually been with startups, with getting new companies going, and not so much with rescuing the reputation of old ones.