Terry Semel was pissed. The Yahoo CEO had offered to buy Google for roughly $3 billion, but the young Internet search firm wasn't interested. Once upon a time, Google's founders had come to Yahoo for an infusion of cash; now they were turning up their noses at what Semel believed was a perfectly reasonable offer. Worse, Semel's lieutenants were telling him that, in fact, Google was probably worth at least $5 billion.
This was way back in the summer of 2002, two years before Google went public. An age before Google's stock soared above $500 a share, giving the company a market value of $147 billion -- right behind Chevron and just ahead of Intel.
As Semel and his top staff sat around the table in a corporate conference room named after a Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor (Phish Food), $5 billion sounded unacceptably high. Google's revenue stood at a measly $240 million a year. Yahoo's was about $837 million. And yet, with Yahoo's stock price still hovering at a bubble-busted $7 a share, a $5 billion purchase price would essentially mean that Yahoo would have to spend its entire market value to swing the deal. It would be a merger of equals, not a purchase.
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