Can Buffett-backed bid unlock Yahoo growth where others failed?

Mon May 16, 2016 1:23pm EDT
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By Deborah M. Todd

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Warren Buffett struck media gold with a 2012 investment in debt-laden Media General Inc. Now the famed investor may try to reprise that success by supporting a bid for Yahoo Inc's Internet assets.

The Berkshire Hathaway Inc chairman is backing a consortium that includes Quicken Loans Inc founder Dan Gilbert, that is seeking to buy Yahoo's online portfolio, Reuters reported on Friday.

The consortium is in the second round of bidding in the auction for Yahoo's assets, people familiar with the matter said. Buffett is helping to finance the offer, one of the people added.

If they succeed, the investment would be a relatively rare foray into digital media for Buffett, whose portfolio is heavily weighted toward U.S. insurers, industrial companies and major consumer brands.

Yahoo, once the world's largest consumer email service, has struggled in recent years to compete with Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc for digital advertising market share.

In February, CEO Marissa Mayer announced the company would auction off its Internet business and cut 15 percent of its workforce. It is also selling $1 billion to $3 billion in noncore assets such as patents and property.

Poynter Institute media business analyst Rick Edmonds said Buffett's history of betting on struggling companies that maintain a large consumer base could work in Yahoo's favor.

In the case of Media General, Buffett bought a majority of the company’s newspapers, making him one of the largest publishers in the United States as the industry struggled with plummeting advertising and subscription revenue.   Continued...

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, prepares to speak at the Fortune's Most Powerful Women's Summit in Washington October 13, 2015.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo