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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Memo to Groupon: 'Hurry, This Deal Expires Soon'

PointCast . . . Yahoo! . . . Groupon??

Insiders say a tentative deal was struck in which News Corp. would acquire PointCast for $450 million. But before the papers could be drafted, issues surfaced over PointCast's revenue projections and the price tag, insiders say. The offer simply went away.

--"PointCast, The Rise and Fall of an Internet Star" ; Bloomberg BusinessWeek (April 26, 1999)

So, apparently Groupon's founders have passed -- for the time being -- on Google's $6 billion buyout offer ("Groupon's Sales Price: No Bargain?").

Owning shares in neither Google nor Groupon, I "don't have a dog in this fight," as they say.

Nevertheless, it's hard not to draw historical parallels with earlier technology trailblazers like PointCast and Yahoo!

In both cases, each company attracted -- and rejected -- rich takeover offers from much, much larger but behind-the-curve players (News Corp., Microsoft) who viewed an acquisition as a way to leapfrog competitors.

When PointCast and Yahoo! overplayed their hands, the deals went away -- and so did their (momentary) industry-leading positions.

Driving home the point: an email in my inbox just this morning, whose subject line trumpeted: "Hurry! This deal expires soon - 80% off Cleaning, Exam, and X-rays!"


Try, Angie's List.

(Can you say, "low barriers to entry??").

P.S.: On a personal note . . . want to know why Yahoo! named its (now-defunct) monthly magazine "Yahoo! Internet Life?"

Yahoo! approached yours truly in 1997 about buying Off-Line, my copyrighted newsletter covering online Investor Relations at the time.

I declined.

As they say, "Oops!"

(I never did find out how much it was worth to them. I suppose it's possible the answer was, "not very much").

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