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Meet the Lookie-Loos of the Yahoo Yard Sale: Google, Twitter, Facebook

Hey, there might be some gems! Or junk! Or whatever!

With the extension of the deadline in the seemingly never-ending Yahoo sales process to April 18, it gives us all more time to heedlessly speculate on the alleged bidders for the Silicon Valley Internet giant.

I use the term “alleged” because now is the time for the classic banker play to throw all kinds of big names out there into the media maelstrom to make it look like there is a lot more real interest in the company than there is.

My count is that there are several dozen taking a gander, even if the real number of solid buyers will only be a handful.

The rest of them are what I like to call: The Lookee-Loos of the Yahoo Yard Sale. According to the Urban Dictionary, it is a “term for someone who looks at something with no intention of buying it. Predominantly used for people who go to open houses when they have no intention of buying any real estate.”

Exactly. And that group includes a lot of little names, but also some of the Internet’s most high-profile players, including Google, Facebook and, yes, Twitter. All have either been approached to take a look at the deal by Yahoo’s bankers or have been doing so of their own volition, despite a very low likelihood that they will be making any kind of offer.

Case in point, Google, which has tried many times over the years to grab pieces of Yahoo’s search business. It needn’t have bothered, since it organically won that war hands down a while back and is now one of Yahoo’s partners in the arena, along with Microsoft.

When reports surfaced this week that it was mulling a Yahoo offer, Wall Street went nuts. But reality is a lot less exciting: Google M&A dude Don Harrison was poking around, as his job demands, including taking meetings and trying to grok if there is any part of Yahoo that Google might like to have.

Expectation of making a serious effort at a bid: “Very low,” said one source at the search giant. “But it’s got to be looked at.” Diligence!

Facebook — which does not really need anyone anymore, because, let’s be honest, that young man named Zuckerberg is killing it — was approached by Yahoo reps to consider, which it did. “It’s nice to be asked, so why not?” joked one Facebooker, who said that there is very little at Yahoo that is attractive to the social networking giant.

Facebook has ad and video tech, is not in need of media and has great communications products. Tumblr? No thanks! Flickr? Facebook photos are just fine, thank you. Yahoo Mail? Ahahaha.

Meanwhile at Twitter, the chain gang over there — CEO Jack Dorsey, COO Adam Bain and CFO Anthony Noto — were a little more particular and serious, meeting with outsiders too and discussing the possibility of creating a stronger native ad platform play via some kind of deal for Yahoo assets. They too have had meetings.

But there is what one person called a “nearly zero percent chance of bidding.” Why? To start, the public relations nightmare alone — let’s call it the fear of the inevitable 1+1=0 meme — might send its new comms head Natalie Kerris running and give analyst Robert Peck and investor Chris Sacca fits.

Second, Dorsey and his team have to goose Twitter’s growth, and adding the complexity of a Yahoo turnaround to that would be daunting. (More to the point, three CEO jobs for Dorsey is probably two too many.)

One source at one of the above companies, in fact, used the yard sale metaphor to describe the impetus of looking at Yahoo: “You drive by, you see a sale sign and you think, maybe I’ll find a gem, so I’ll stop even if it is mostly junk, too.”

But, as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, because there is a lot of interest from legit buyers like Verizon and a small clutch of private equity and media players. While most are justifiably worried about the weakness of Yahoo’s core business and talent drain, they are still attracted to important video and ad tech and its still sizable audience, too.

To them, all the noise around Yahoo is simply annoying. One definite buyer calls me daily to get a read on all the headlines. “It feels like a pretty quiet process, and then you get jarred by all the noise,” said the likely bidder. “It’s hard to know what to think.”

You and me both, pal! And if Yahoo does not sell before the upcoming proxy fight with Starboard Value that is sure to ratchet up the volume, we might all want to invest in a good set of ear plugs.

“No comments” all over the place. (Meanwhile, over at Yahoo, they are spinning, oops, briefing, lots of reporters this week to tell them about all the innovation happening there, which is presumably why it’s for sale; but not me, so no comment in absentia.)

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