Something apparently happened. First TechCruch reported Yelp was going to sell to Google for $500 million or more. There was a frenzy of speculative coverage (including by me) that followed this initial report. The NY Times appeared to independently confirm that Yelp was going to sell. And I spoke to someone (not at Yelp) who confidently said that a deal was happening though he indicated its particular form might be different than what was reported.
Back in the hall of mirrors TechCrunch is now saying that the deal is not happening, that “Yelp walked away” and that the “deal went sideways.” TechCrunch says it was CEO Jeremy Stoppelman’s decision. If so it was in consultation with others, including VCs/board members. This is not a decision that Stoppelman would make — or have the authority to make — on his own.
Mike Arrington speculates that another bidder/party came in and “gave Stoppelman the confidence” to say no to the deal (“Apple, Microsoft”). TechCrunch also says its sources convey that Yelp will remain independent for the time being.
Some Yelp partisans may rejoice at the apparent rejection of Google’s offer: “Jeremy join us and together we can rule the (local) galaxy as father and son.” To some this deal might have seemed a betrayal of Yelp’s community values and mission; however that wouldn’t be a legitimate basis for rejecting it. Something much more specific and concrete that must have happened.
As Arrington suggests, perhaps a third party investor has come forward with the promise of a big cash infusion. Or perhaps the board now sees an IPO opportunity down the line. But you don’t walk away — and your hungry investors don’t let you walk away — from this kind of money without some very clear and concrete alternatives.