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INC. | TECHTOWN | Erik Sherman
Even a 20-something billionaire could use a little help. He just got it from Microsoft--via a huge heap of AOL patents.
At a time when Yahoo sues Facebook, Apple sues Samsung, and Oracle sues Google for alleged patent infringement, a stockpile of legally protected intellectual property makes a handy weapon. It explains why companies whose salad days seem in the past, like AOL, have decided that holding the patents isn't as appealing as selling 800 to Microsoft for $1.06 billion.
The assumption was that Microsoft was extending its already massive holding of patents for potential legal action against competitors. And then the company sold 650 to Facebook for $550 million. Microsoft sells 80% or so of the patents for just over 51% of what it paid. Seems strange, right?
Maybe not. There's clearly more going on than meets the eye. It seems that Facebook has a strategic sugar daddy. It's not charity, just smart business that might make sense for you.
To help untangle the transaction, keep in mind the following:
Microsoft bought 1.6% of Facebook in 2007 for $240 million. That was at a $15 billion valuation that will likely soon be worth $1.6 billion at the expected $100 billion valuation Facebook will have at its IPO.
Microsoft beat out Google for the shares. Neither of those two companies have any affection for the other.
Google wants to undermine Microsoft's core business software and operating system businesses.
Google rightly fears Facebook as social networking is vital to the industry and Google is nowhere near at par in that area.
Google has been buying patents where it could get them. For defense, the company says. Yeah, everyone keeps a howitzer in the backyard, just in case.
Microsoft's search business partner Yahoo is suing Facebook for alleged patent infringement. If you're not ready to sell your portfolio, might as well see what some legal action could bring in.
Having more patents on hand means greater leverage in negotiations because of the potential to countersue.
Facebook just saw a drop in profits and faces growth challenges going forward. Given its impending IPO and the recent $1 billion Instagram acquisition, there is a limit to the cash it should spend.
Microsoft already had tens of thousands of patents and a big stockpile of money. So it entered the bidding, appearing like a wealthy shopper that really didn't need what it was buying. The final price to AOL was high enough to keep most others away.
After the partial reimbursement by Facebook, Microsoft was out just over $450 million—a huge sum, but still a rounding error in its bank book that may have brought consternation for its biggest competitor. (Did I mention that Microsoft's patent lawyers are pretty damned smart and understand the strategic and monetary value of what they buy and sell?)
That's why Microsoft was a strategic sugar daddy. Facebook isn't a "kept" company. The alliance between it and Microsoft offers mutual benefits in doing business.
Maybe it's time for you to gain a strategy sugar daddy. It could be an investor, customer, or business partner. It needs to be relatively large in relation to the size of your company and your competitors. It must gain a strategic advantage from doing business with you, and the advantage can't easily be replaced by your rivals. That might be access to technology, a particular market or customer, know-how, talent, or source of future profit.
The good news is that you may already have the beginning of a strategic sugar daddy, just waiting for you to correctly cultivate the relationship. The better news? It's strategic, so no need to get permanently married.
Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He is a blogger for CBS MoneyWatch and InsideInvestorRelations.com. @ErikSherman
shared from MediaNovak.com Protect Your Online Reputation | The good, the bad, the ugly … anything that’s posted about you on the Web will likely come up in an online search or with a little digging. And that can mean trouble. By now you’ve surely heard at least one horror story about a major brand catching flack in social media–often because of...
shared from MediaNovak.com Investing in free social media tools is one of the most cost-effective things a small business owner can do to increase brand recognition and awareness, and yet fewer than 20% of SMBs currently have websites that link to popular social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Why...
by Chiara Fucarino | Shared from Life'd Life is short, so why waste time worrying about the negative Nellies, Debbie downers, green-eyed monsters and chronic criticizers in your life? You deserve to be happy. You don’t need to be around anyone who stresses you out or makes you feel bad about yourself. If you allow yourself to...
by Chiara Fucarino | shared from Life'd Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. – Dalai Lama There are two types of people in the world: those who choose to be happy, and those who choose to be unhappy. Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come from fame, fortune, other people, or...
by Shannon George | shared from Life'd Facebook is great to the extent that it allows you to keep in touch with people who you might otherwise fall out of touch with and reinforces your strongest relationships. However, when you don’t use a little discretion with Facebook and other social networks, you risk annoying, offending or...
by Tim Asimos | Shared from Circle Studio.com Having a robust LinkedIn profile is the key to building a solid foundation on which to grow your network. Your LinkedIn profile might be the first impression you make on a prospect or contact, so it is important that your profile is complete and compelling. LinkedIn created the...