A Fool Looks Back

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Billionaire Carl Icahn and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) CEO Steve Ballmer are unlikely to be cast in the next buddy-cop flick, but the two are doing a great job of playing up the "good cop, bad cop" routine.

Ballmer tried to butter up Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) for a few months with his $31 offer. Now that's he's left the room and taken his offer of backrubs and pizza slices with him, Icahn has a shot to rip into Yahoo! and make the company regret that it didn't give itself up.

And has Icahn ever torn into Yahoo!, especially CEO Jerry Yang. He has already made it clear that Yang is out if his proxy slate of directors is voted in come August. So what's a Yahoo! to do?

The right thing, that's what. As much as I've criticized Yahoo! in recent months, and I've done plenty, a part of me always roots for the underdog. Things have gotten pretty bleak for Yahoo!, yet you have to admire the company's spree of making partnership announcements.

On Wednesday morning, Yahoo! announced three different deals, expanding its reach in video distribution, ad-supported e-commerce through Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , and personalized newspaper circulars. Even if the end results may not contribute much to Yahoo!'s bottom line, Yang has two months to prove himself worthy to his investors. As long as the ink is flying on incremental deals, the "good cop, bad cop" routine is unlikely to succeed.

Briefly in the news
And now, let's take a quick look at some of the other stories that shaped our week.

  • Baidu.com (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) was targeted by record labels, upset at the search engine's ability to unearth MP3 files, regardless of who owns the song. The labels would be justified in going after the sites distributing the songs, but they know where the money is. The labels, already in the process of suing Baidu, sent notices to advertisers suggesting a boycott of Baidu. The problem? Telling a sponsor to refrain from advertising on the search engine behind roughly two-thirds of China's search queries is like asking the Hamburglar to stay away from McDonald's. The labels may have a chance in court, but they'll lose this battle.
  • Free real-time quotes are coming, as the exchanges have squared away data-distribution deals through financial portals such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Finance and News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS  ) WSJ.com. Great! Now I get to know that I'm a crummy investor right away, instead of having the bad news delayed by 20 minutes.
  • Jackson Hewitt Tax Service (NYSE: JTX  ) posted disappointing quarterly results on Thursday. It happens, even to the best of bean counters, but Jackson let the market down during its seasonally strongest quarter, when we're all filing our taxes. I guess that's what happens when your name -- Hewitt -- rhymes with "blew it." Better luck next year.

Until next week, I remain,

Rick Munarriz


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