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A New Horse in the Yahoo! Inc. Race

By Motley Fool Staff - May 27, 2016 at 1:24PM

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The founder of Quicken Loans is forming a consortium to snag the Internet pioneer's core assets. And a certain icon from Omaha says he wants to help.

Last week, the bidding for Yahoo! got more complicated as Dan Gilbert, the founder of privately held Quicken Loans, started gathering a consortium to make an offer for the company's core assets.

The most surprising player to emerge out of this deal is Warren Buffett, a self-proclaimed technophobe when it comes to investing, who wants to get in on financing the transaction. While he has proclaimed disinterest in Yahoo!'s stock, it may not be as simple as that.

In this segment from the Market Foolery podcast, Chris Hill, Jason Moser, and Taylor Muckerman talk about what Gilbert might see in the company, how he might gather the funds to make a bid, what Warren Buffett might want out of the transaction, and what could happen to Yahoo! if Gilbert is the victor of this bidding war.

A full transcript follows the video.

This podcast was recorded on May 16, 2016. 

Chris Hill: I think we might have said, on a previous episode, when we were talking about Yahoo! and the bids that were being made. Clearly Verizon making a bid for Yahoo!, other players coming in as well. Yellow Pages, reminding us that Yellow Pages still exists. But, I think we said at the time, "Look, this is still an opportunity for a mystery horse to come in," and that was the news that broke over the weekend. 

Dan Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans, is heading up a consortium to make a bid for Yahoo!'s core assets. And Warren Buffett has come out and said he's willing to be the financial backer. He was also very clear about saying, "I'm not interested in the stock," even though that presumably would exist in the terms of the deal, that they would be able to convert some of the finances into stock if they so choose. But at least on the surface of it, were you surprised by this?

Jason Moser: I was very surprised. I thought maybe he was mixed up and thought they were talking about a deal to put a bid in for Yoo-hoo and not Yahoo!

Hill: Think he's a fan of the chocolate drink?

Moser: So, for Buffett, the luxury he has is he can pretty much dictate the terms. Going into something like this with Yahoo!, he's going to figure out any way he can to make this beneficial for him. That's the point. I would be surprised if there was a way for him to be rewarded on this through Yahoo! stock. I think we're probably all on the same page that Yahoo!'s stock has maybe had its biggest run. I think it's best days are probably behind it, because when you X-out that Alibaba interest, and then you just look at the general space today, Yahoo! is just not the same as it once was. Eyeballs are just going to other places. So any way he can figure out an opportunity to help facilitate a deal and dictate financial terms that work out for him ... he's really, really good at that. It could be debt that converts into preferred shares, whatever it is, I suspect we will see that kind of angle there, as opposed to him just laying out interest there, that he would love to own Yahoo! shares, because I don't think he really would. But I think there's a way he sees that they could potentially profit from being part of the deal.

Taylor Muckerman: Who's to say that Yahoo! remains public after it gets bought? They're only selling the core business, not the entire business. Maybe these buyers take it private. Verizon is one of the lead dogs in possibly purchasing it, combining it with AOL's assets and challenging Facebook and Google on the digital advertising side. My bet would be that Yahoo!'s core assets disappear from the public markets, in most cases.

Hill: It's interesting, because as we talked about before with Verizon -- intellectually Verizon bidding for Yahoo!'s core assets makes sense for me. They need content. Yahoo! does a very good job with sports and finance. And, as I always like to point out, we're one of the companies that works with Yahoo! Finance. Dan Gilbert is the founder of Quicken Loans, so he clearly has the finance background. He's also the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. And I'm wondering if Gilbert has enough, or feels like he has enough, insight, both into Yahoo! Finance and the world of sports content, that that's what he's after here, that he feels like he has enough intel about the way those two businesses operate.

But I think you're right, Taylor. If Gilbert is the one who ends up winning the bid here, I would be surprised if those assets remain public, whereas with Verizon, if they come under the Verizon umbrella, they technically still are.

Moser: Yeah, more than likely.

Hill: Has to be pretty good to be Dan Gilbert these days. You get the Cleveland Cavaliers, primed to make the NBA finals one more time.

Moser: You have Buffett wanting to shell out some cash and make a deal.

Hill: It's good to be Dan Gilbert.

Muckerman: Trying to turn Detroit around.

Moser: Wouldn't you rather work with Buffett than try to weasel some cash out of a bank? I'm sure he's way more fun to be with.

Hill: I would think so.

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