When Lyft Inc. holds its hotly anticipated initial public offering Thursday afternoon, the company is expected to begin trading with a market cap of more than $20 billion. The IPO will cement Lyft’s place as an important antagonist to its larger rival Uber Technologies Inc., which is slated to go public soon after. But the rivalry only tips over into the realm of Greek drama when you consider that Uber previously passed on the opportunity to buy Lyft — multiple times.
Uber declined to do a deal in 2014 over pricing disputes. That’s back when Lyft was worth less than $1 billion. Uber’s co-founder Travis Kalanick later said he had no regrets, though, and in 2016 added he didn’t want to buy Lyft at all because of antitrust concerns — but that he especially wouldn’t pay more than $2 billion. The company at the time was said to be seeking as much as $9 billion.
Taking a pass on cheap acquisitions often looks little silly in hindsight, but it’s common in the corporate world, particularly in the technology industry, where vast fortunes can be built and lost seemingly overnight. Here, a tour through the annals of knife-twisting regret and the many tech mergers that might have been.
–Excite could’ve had Google for the price of a two-bedroom San Francisco home
Remember Excite? Neither do a lot of people. But in 1999, the early web portal passed up the opportunity to buy upstart search engine Google, Vinod Khosla told a conference audience in 2010. Google reportedly asked for $1 million, and later dropped the price to $750,000, but the offers were rejected by Excite’s then-CEO George Bell. Google parent Alphabet Inc. is now worth $817 billion.
–Yahoo also passed on Google
The story today is Silicon Valley legend. In 2002, Yahoo CEO Terry Semel made Google a $3 billion offer, but declined to boost the price substantially enough to seal the deal. “Five billion dollars, 7 billion, 10 billion. I don’t know what they’re really worth – and you don’t either,” Semel reportedly told his staff at the time. In a way, he was right.
–Yahoo looked at Facebook too
It was the summer of 2006 when Yahoo made Facebook a billion-dollar offer. But it may have been doomed from the start. As Facebook board member Peter Thiel recounted at a South by Southwest panel in 2013, Mark Zuckerberg, just 22 at the time, didn’t want to sell and thought that Yahoo was undervaluing the young social media company.
–MySpace had two opportunities to buy Facebook
And it walked away from both. According to the book, Stealing MySpace by Julia Angwin, Zuckerberg reportedly asked MySpace founder Chris DeWolfe for $75 million to buy the company in 2005. Just a few months later, the once-enormous social networking pioneer again discussed doing a Facebook deal, but later balked at the price, which had risen to closer to $750 million. Facebook now has a market cap of $473 billion.
–Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo for $44.6 billion in 2008
At the time, Yahoo said the unsolicited bid undervalued its global brand, investments and earnings potential, and negotiations went nowhere. That’s probably a good thing for Microsoft Corp. Less than a decade later, Verizon Communications Inc. sealed the deal for just $4.5 billion.
–Google was this close to purchasing Groupon
Google was reportedly ready to shell out $6 billion for Groupon Inc. in 2010. Up until that point, the search engine company’s largest acquisition was its roughly $3.2 billion deal with DoubleClick. In hindsight, Google doesn’t appear to be missing out on much: Groupon is now worth less than $2 billion.
–Facebook’s Snapchat dreams disappeared
Likely leery of ending up on lists like this one, Zuckerberg made an early play for Snapchat in 2013. But the ephemeral message company said “no thanks” to the $3 billion all-cash offer from Facebook. Zuckerberg is no stranger to snapping up threatening competitors, as it did with Instagram and later WhatsApp. Snap Inc. is now a public company with a $14 billion market cap, and the one that got away.
(c) 2019, Bloomberg · Krista Gmelich