Microsoft Considers Unloading aQuantive’s Avenue A/Razorfish To WPP; Possible Price: $800MM — Microsoft’s talks with WPP Group seem to be taking a more serious turn on the subject of the software giant selling off digital ad shop, Avenue A/Razorfish, AdAge reports. Microsoft acquired Avenue A/Razorfish when it bought parent aQuantive last August for about $6 billion. That purchase also included other aQuantive properties, among them ad network Atlas and digital marketing solutions provider DrivePM. Initially, Microsoft felt the online agency business represented by Avenue A/Razorfish was fairly ancillary to creating an online ad platform that would compete with Google and DoubleClick. But Brian McAndrews, at the time aQuantive’s CEO and now SVP for Microsoft’s Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group, convinced Microsoft to accept the unit whole. Six months in, however, Microsoft began having a change of heart and looked for potential buyers who might be more interested in taking the agency business. So far, the main prospect has been WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell.
LA Times Group Joins In Launching Real Estate Auction Buiness and Site ZetaBid — As the print side keeps bleeding, the Los Angeles Times Media Group keeps trying to extend into other platforms, both offline and online: the parent of LAT newspaper has jointly launched ZetaBid, a business that will auction foreclosed homes and other properties…it also has a website where the properties could be viewed. The newspaper has nothing to do with the new business, reports the newspaper. The other partners are London-based GoIndustry-DoveBid, an auction specialist, and CataList Homes of Hermosa Beach, a real estate brokerage. The partners will share fees paid by the buyer on each home sold. Bob Bellack, who is president of digital media, classified and development for Times Media Group, will be chairman of the new enterprise. This is an innovative idea of expanding its commercial opportunities, and though the real estate market is on doldrums, the foreclosure market as a result is not.
Yahoo Seeks To Expand Yahoo News — Yahoo is aiming to turn Yahoo News into a major news organization, a la Reuters or The Associated Press. According to AFP, the Web giant is moving away from aggregating others’ news content and is instead cutting deals with wire services and investing heavily in its own roster of reporters. “We have been doing a lot of original reporting and we are going to be doing a lot more,” director of editorial programming Jessica Barron told AFP in an interview. Yahoo News already reaches about half a billion people worldwide. “Our aim is to reach these bigger names and use our reporting talent to break news,” Barron said. “We are really going for the kinds of questions that will make news.” For the Democratic and Republican party conventions, Yahoo is teaming with Politico reporters to cover the event; the team will field questions on behalf of Yahoo’s users and relay the answers online.
Harbinger & Co. Unlikely To Shake Things Up At Cablevision — Whoever said talk was cheap hasn’t been following the action at Cablevision: Shares of the Long Island-based cable operators have staged a strong rally in recent months, courtesy of the Dolan family’s jib-jabbing and jawboning alone. But don’t expect the fun to continue says Citi analyst Jason Bazinet, who downgraded the stock today. Despite the fact that activist Harbinger has taken an 8.1 percent stake in the company, class A shareholders (non-Dolans) don’t have the muscle to force anything, like an asset sale. Even though the top non-Dolan shareholders are consolidating their grip (besides Harbinger, top firms like Gamco and Clearbride have added to their stake), the Dolan’s control of the Class B shares ensures that they’ll retain 73 percent of the voting power.
Telemundo Unifies Digital Media Division; Blacker As SVP — Telemundo, the Hispanic language media company owned by NBC Universal, has unified all its digital media efforts and created a new unit called Digital Media and Emerging Businesses Division. This new unit will include Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Telemundo, holamun2.com, its international digital media efforts and its emerging platforms unit (which included mobile and licensing and merchandising efforts). It will be headed by Peter Blacker as EVP, who was previously SVP. He joined NBCU after a stint as VP, Multicultural & International for AOL Media Networks. The mandate of the new unit is to develop custom branded entertainment, digital and mobile cross-platform solutions.