Google's $83 Million Escape Clause: SEC Filing Spells Out Details Of Yahoo-Google Deal

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In a new filing with the SEC, Yahoo spells out the terms of the search-advertising agreement it announced yesterday with Google. Most of the filing fleshes out known details about the agreement. But it also discloses something Jerry Yang and Sue Decker didn’t want to talk about yesterday. The deal includes an $83 million escape clause for Google:

Google may terminate the Services Agreement if, after ten months after the Services are first launched, and each month thereafter, the gross revenues recognized by Google under the Services Agreement are less than $83,333,333 for the four prior calendar months.

In other words, Google has a minimum guarantee of serving at least $83 million worth of ads through Yahoo on a rolling 4-month basis, or else it can walk away. That’s a pretty tiny threshold, considering that Yahoo’s quarterly U.S. revenues are $1.3 billion. The amount comes to about one percent of Yahoo’s total projected revenues for 2008. (When Yahoo president Sue Decker was asked about minimum guarantees yesterday during a conference call, she wouldn’t comment).

There is another clause that lets both companies out of the agreement without penalty to avoid antitrust lawsuits or other similar actions. But Google negotiated a $250 million kill fee if the agreement is terminated within two years because of a “change in control” of Yahoo (i.e., a sale). Update: A change in control is defined as occurring if more than 50 percent of Yahoo’s shares are purchased by another company (in the case of Microsoft, News Corp., or Time Warner, that threshold is lowered to 35 percent). Curiously, the agreement provides loopholes for a change of control “triggered by” Microsoft acquiring more than 15 percent of shares on the open market or more than 5 percent of shares acquired directly from Yahoo or buying any part of Yahoo representing more than one percent of its annual revenues. If any of this happens, Yahoo does not have to pay the fee If Yahoo is acquired by Microsoft, it doesn’t have to pay the fee. Thus, this single clause means that anyone other than Microsoft might have to pay up to $250 million more to buy Yahoo.

If the Services Agreement is terminated by either party within 24 months of the Effective Date as a result of a Change in Control of Yahoo! (other than a Change in Control triggered only by Microsoft …), Yahoo! is required to pay to Google the sum of $250,000,000

The agreement also explains Yahoo’s discretion in deciding how, when, and where to display Google ads. It also goes into how the deal is structured. There are two portions. Google is to pay Yahoo both a variable and fixed percentage of the gross revenues it generates through the deal. The variable percentage is based on monthly targets, presumably on top of a fixed percentage. The actual percentages of the revenue split was not disclosed:

Under the Services Agreement, Yahoo! has sole discretion to choose which search queries to send to Google and is not obligated to send any minimum number of search queries. Yahoo! also has sole discretion to decide on which pages to display ads provided by Google through its AFC Services. In addition, the Services Agreement is non-exclusive, and expressly provides that Yahoo! is not prevented from implementing any other advertising, promotion or marketing service or monetization method, including any that are the same as or substantially similar in nature to the Services or displaying comparable advertisements. Yahoo! also has sole discretion with respect to the placement and location of ads generated from the Services, the number of ads requested and the formatting of ads. Additionally, Yahoo! may serve its own ads or third-party ads alongside Google ads.

Google will pay Yahoo! a percentage of the gross revenues generated from AFS Services on the Yahoo! Properties, with such percentage adjusting based on specified monthly gross revenue thresholds, and with respect to the Yahoo! Partner Properties will pay a similar percentage of gross revenues less a separate specified percentage. Google will also pay Yahoo! a fixed percentage of gross revenues generated from AFC Services on the Yahoo! Properties and a fixed percentage of gross revenues for AFC Services on Yahoo! Partner Properties.

The full text of the agreement follows:

Item 1.01. Entry into a Material Definitive Agreement.

Services Agreement
On June 12, 2008 (the “Effective Date”), Yahoo! Inc., a Delaware corporation (“Yahoo!”), and Google Inc., a Delaware corporation (“Google”), entered into a Services Agreement (the “Services Agreement”), pursuant to which Google will provide Yahoo! with advertisements through Google’s AdSense for Search service (the “AFS Services”) and AdSense for Content service (the “AFC Services” and together with the “AFS Services,” the “Services”) for display on web sites and other applications owned and operated by Yahoo! and its subsidiaries (the “Yahoo! Properties”) and certain of Yahoo!’s business partners/affiliates (the “Yahoo! Partner Properties”). The Services Agreement applies to properties within the United States and Canada.

Under the Services Agreement, Yahoo! has sole discretion to choose which search queries to send to Google and is not obligated to send any minimum number of search queries. Yahoo! also has sole discretion to decide on which pages to display ads provided by Google through its AFC Services. In addition, the Services Agreement is non-exclusive, and expressly provides that Yahoo! is not prevented from implementing any other advertising, promotion or marketing service or monetization method, including any that are the same as or substantially similar in nature to the Services or displaying comparable advertisements. Yahoo! also has sole discretion with respect to the placement and location of ads generated from the Services, the number of ads requested and the formatting of ads. Additionally, Yahoo! may serve its own ads or third-party ads alongside Google ads.

Google will pay Yahoo! a percentage of the gross revenues generated from AFS Services on the Yahoo! Properties, with such percentage adjusting based on specified monthly gross revenue thresholds, and with respect to the Yahoo! Partner Properties will pay a similar percentage of gross revenues less a separate specified percentage. Google will also pay Yahoo! a fixed percentage of gross revenues generated from AFC Services on the Yahoo! Properties and a fixed percentage of gross revenues for AFC Services on Yahoo! Partner Properties.

The initial term of the Services Agreement commenced on the Effective Date and will continue for a period of four years thereafter. Yahoo! may, at its option, extend the term of the Services Agreement for up to two additional periods of three years each. Either party may terminate the Services Agreement upon notice to the other party (i) in the event of an uncured material breach of the Services Agreement by the other party, subject to dispute resolution procedures and certain limitations; (ii) in the event of a Change in Control (as defined below) involving either party; (iii) 120 days after the Effective Date in order to avoid or end a lawsuit or similar action filed on competition law grounds if the terminating party has taken all actions required under the Services Agreement with respect to regulatory matters and defending such action is not commercially reasonable for that party (taking all factors into account); or (iv) if a court of competent jurisdiction has entered an order enjoining the implementation of the Services Agreement. In addition, Google may terminate the Services Agreement if, after ten months after the Services are first launched, and each month thereafter, the gross revenues recognized by Google under the Services Agreement are less than $83,333,333 for the four prior calendar months.

As defined in the Services Agreement, the term “Change in Control” means (a) a merger, consolidation, statutory share exchange, recapitalization, restructuring or business combination involving directly or indirectly a party or a subsidiary of a party in which voting securities of the party outstanding immediately prior to such transaction do not continue to represent more than 50% (or 65% in the case of a transaction involving Microsoft Corporation (“Microsoft”), Time Warner Inc. (“Time Warner”) or News Corporation (“News Corp”), in each case together with their respective affiliates) of the voting power represented by the outstanding voting securities of the surviving entity immediately following the transaction; (b) any “person” or “group” becoming the “beneficial owner” (as such terms are used or defined in Sections 13(d) and 14(d) under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended) of more than 50% of the voting power of the then outstanding voting securities of the party, except that, in the case of Time Warner and News Corp, the percentage will be 35% instead of 50% and, in the case of Microsoft, the percentage will be 15% instead of 50% and a Change in Control will also be deemed to occur if Microsoft (i) beneficially owns 15% of the voting power of the party or (ii) acquires directly from a party any equity or voting securities of that party representing (or having a right to receive in the aggregate) 5% or more of the total equity value of the party or 1% or more of the party’s annual revenues on a consolidated basis); (c) approval by the stockholders of a party of a plan of liquidation or dissolution; (d) the sale or disposition of all or substantially all the consolidated assets of a party; or (e) at any point in time, Yahoo! no longer owns and, with respect to the U.S. and Canada, controls a majority portion of Yahoo!’s technology and intellectual property assets that in the 12-month period prior to that time had been owned by Yahoo! and used by Yahoo! to provide services in the U.S. and Canada for either its algorithmic search or search advertising business. The Services Agreement also permits Google to suspend performance of the Services under certain circumstances, including a pending Change in Control of Yahoo! involving Microsoft, Time Warner or News Corp and a change in a majority of the board of directors of Yahoo! following an annual or special meeting of stockholders if a majority of the new directors did not serve on Yahoo!’s board immediately prior to such stockholder meeting and were nominated or solicited for by Microsoft, Time Warner or News Corp or, solely with respect to Yahoo!’s first two annual or special meetings held after the Effective Date where the election of a majority of directors is before Yahoo! stockholders (but not later than September 1, 2009), by any other person or group.

If the Services Agreement is terminated by either party within 24 months of the Effective Date as a result of a Change in Control of Yahoo! (other than a Change in Control triggered only by Microsoft either (x) acquiring beneficial ownership of voting securities representing more than 15% of the voting power of outstanding Yahoo! voting securities or (y) acquiring directly from Yahoo! equity or voting securities representing 5% or more of Yahoo!’s total equity value or 1% or more of Yahoo!’s consolidated annual revenues, unless Microsoft becomes the beneficial owner of more than 35% of the voting power of such securities within such 24 month period), Yahoo! is required to pay to Google the sum of $250,000,000, which payment will be reduced by one-half of an amount equal to (a) all gross revenues received by Google pursuant to the Services Agreement through the date of termination less (b) the amount equal to Yahoo!’s share of such gross revenues during the same period.

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