News Corp. Approached About Yahoo Buy

Private equity firms eye alternatives to AOL deal.

NEW YORK -- As Yahoo shareholders seemed to cheer a possible sale of the company to private equity firms, possibly with the help of AOL, sources said Thursday that private equity players have also approached News Corp. as a potential alternative partner for a Yahoo deal.

News Corp.'s possible role isn't surprising. Thanks to its digital business, led by recently struggling social network MySpace, News Corp. has in the past been repeatedly cited as a potential merger partner for Yahoo and even AOL and been in early-stage talks as Web players have looked to strengthen their position vis-a-vis dominant Google.

PE firms have pitched News Corp. with suggestions it could roll some or all of its digital business into Yahoo in return for a stake, one source said. But those talks are in preliminary stages just like those with AOL.

However, observers expect that AOL, led by chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong, will be more actively interested in doing a deal.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Yahoo has hired Goldman Sachs to help it defend against possible advances from PE firms.

News Corp., AOL and Yahoo all declined comment.

Yahoo shares rose as much as 9.9% Thursday amid investor hopes for a sale, but the stock closed up 4.5% at $15.93.

Georg Szalai reported from New York. Kim Masters reported from LA.

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