by Will Ashworth | September 27, 2012 12:05 pm
The house cleaning at Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) continued Sept. 25 with CEO Marissa Mayer announcing that it was replacing current CFO Tim Morse with Ken Goldman, who was CFO of Fortinet (NASDAQ:FTNT).
Goldman starts Oct. 22 and brings with him 38 years of finance experience, mostly in the technology sector. While media reports differ about the type of CFO Goldman is, there is no debating the fact Yahoo has hired someone whose been in the trenches an awfully long time.
With the sale of half its Alibaba shares, Goldman will oversee the allocation of that cash, some of it likely going toward an acquisition or two. Here are three potential targets:
The most natural acquisition is Lockerz, the teen rewards-based e-commerce business that Kathy Savitt founded in 2009 and ran until August when Mayer hired her longtime friend as chief marketing officer. Although Savitt quit Lockerz day-to-day, she has invested $4 million in the company and will become chairman of the board.
To date, approximately $75 million in capital has been raised from Liberty Interactive (NASDAQ:LINTA), Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, DAG Ventures and Live Nation Entertainment (NYSE:LYV). Similar to Pinterest in style, its revenues can’t be very large at this point. However, if Mayer offers enough, I’m sure Greg Maffei and John Malone would consider selling their 38% interest.
According to sources connected to Business Insider, Mayer’s town hall included her stressing that Yahoo’s strength is personalization of both content and ads. In that regard, she intends to commit significant resources to mobile and personalization. To achieve some of its goals for mobile, Yahoo will acquire smaller companies not for their products, but rather their talent.
I’ve gone to the latest Inc. 5000 ranking to find potential targets. At No. 62 in the 2012 ranking is Dallas-based Bottle Rocket Apps, a developer of handcrafted mobile applications for clients like ESPN and National Geographic. With revenues of just $6.1 million in 2011, it probably won’t make Yahoo’s radar, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t.
In the past three years, Bottle Rocket Apps has gone from one employee to 58, with everyone focused on making beautifully designed, easy-to-use apps. So popular are its creations that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has made several of its apps part of its iPad Hall of Fame. Bottle Rocket Apps is precisely the type of business Mayer is talking about.
Lastly, I would be remiss as a finance writer to not mention something related to financial services.
Yahoo Finance, although long in the tooth, still is one of YHOO’s more popular sites. If Yahoo were to make an acquisition, this would be a sensible area to focus on. However, my suggestion is probably not one that it will exercise given its track record in large acquisitions. Nonetheless, I think it could really spice up its finance portal while delivering reasonable profitability.
The target I have in mind is Morningstar (NASDAQ:MORN), the Chicago-based purveyor of investment information to both individuals, financial advisers and institutions.
If Mayer is serious about personalization, no company could help her cause more than Joe Mansueto’s company. Even though Morningstar does a huge amount of business behind the scenes with investment professionals, it still generates a great deal of love from individual investors.
The trick is getting Mansueto to sell; he owns almost 50% of the company. At 55, he has been at Morningstar since he founded it in 1984. I don’t imagine he has a plan B. Not to mention, it wouldn’t come cheap. Morningstar’s all-time high of $85.50 was achieved in December 2007. An offer would have to be in that ballpark, meaning the acquisition would cost Yahoo $3.7 billion after subtracting cash.
Bold moves are required at this point in Yahoo’s history. Time will tell if Mayer does the safe thing by repurchasing shares, or instead chooses to make a defining acquisition.
I think most of us know what that choice will be. If so, put another nail in the coffin.
As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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