APReport: Google Appears Poised to Buy YouTube for at Least $1.6 Billion
Report: Google Closing in on YouTube
Monday October 9, 4:06 pm ET
By Michael Liedtke, AP Business Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google Inc. appears to be on the verge of buying YouTube Inc. for at least $1.6 billion in a deal that would catapult the Internet search leader to a leading role in the online video revolution. If the two companies' boards approve it, Google's acquisition could be announced after the stock market closes Monday, according to The Wall Street Journal. The paper quoted an unnamed person familiar with the whirlwind negotiations that unfolded during the past week.
Google spokesman Jon Murchinson declined to comment Monday. A YouTube representative said the startup's primary spokeswoman won't be available for comment until after the stock market closes.
A partner for the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, which owns about 30 percent of privately held YouTube, also was unavailable for comment Monday because he was tied up in a meeting. Sequoia was an early investor in Google and retains a seat on the company's board of directors.
If it's consummated, Google's acquisition would unite one of the Internet's marquee companies with one of its rapidly rising stars.
The deal would be by far Google's most expensive in its eight-year history. The lofty price underscores how important Google expects online video to become as more viewers and advertisers migrate from television to the Internet.
While it has been able to extend its lead in the lucrative search market, Google hasn't been able to become a major player in online video.
"This gives Google the video play they have been looking for and gives them a great opportunity to redefine how advertising is done," said Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li.
Investors applauded the possible acquisition as Google shares climbed $9.02, or 2.1 percent, to $429.57 during Monday's late-afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Several other suitors, including Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and News Corp., reportedly have discussed a possible YouTube purchase in recent weeks.
"This deal looks pretty compelling for Google," said Standard & Poor's analyst Scott Kessler said. "Google has been doing a lot of things right, but they are not sitting on their laurels."
Google's YouTube coup may intensify the pressure on Yahoo to make its own splash by buying Facebook.com, the Internet's second most popular social-networking site. Yahoo has reportedly offered as much as $1 billion for Palo Alto-based Facebook during months of sporadic talks.
"Yahoo really needs to step up and do something," said Roger Aguinaldo, an investment banker who also publishes a dealmaking newsletter called the M&A Advisor. "They are becoming less relevant and looking less innovative with each passing day."
Selling to Mountain View-based Google will give YouTube more technological muscle and advertising know-how, as well as generate a staggering windfall for a 67-employee company that was running on credit card debt just 20 months ago.
Since 20-something buddies Chad Hurley and Steve Chen founded the company in February 2005, YouTube has blossomed into a cultural touchstone that shows more than 100 million video clips per day. The video library is eclectic, featuring everything from teenagers goofing off in their rooms to William Shatner singing "Rocket Man" during a 1970s TV show. The clips are submitted by users.
While most videos posted on YouTube are homemade, the site also features volumes of copyrighted material -- a problem that has caused some critics to predict the startup eventually would be sued into oblivion, much like the once-popular music-sharing site Napster.
But Hurley, 29, and Chen, 27, have spent months cozying up with major media executives in an effort to convince them that YouTube could help them make more money by helping them connect with the growing number of people who spend most of their free time on the Internet.
That trend propelled YouTube's worldwide audience to 72.1 million through August, up from 2.8 million a year earlier, according to comScore Media Metrix.
YouTube's conciliatory approach with major media has recently yielded several licensing and promotional agreements that have eased some of the copyright concerns while providing the company with some financial breathing room until it becomes profitable.
To conserve money as it subsisted on $11.5 million in venture capital, YouTube had been based in an austere office above a San Mateo pizzeria until recently moving to more spacious quarters in nearby San Bruno.
As its negotiations with Google appeared to near fruition, YouTube on Monday announced new partnerships with Universal Music Group, CBS Corp. and Sony BMG Music Entertainment. Those alliances followed a similar arrangement announced last month with Warner Music Group Inc.
The truce with Universal represented a particularly significant breakthrough because the world's largest record company had threatened to sue YouTube for copyright infringement less than a month ago.
Li and Kessler expect even more media companies will be lining up to do business with YouTube if it's bought by Google.
"It's going to be like, 'You can either fight us or you can make money with us,'" Li predicted.