Yelp May Be Up for Sale: Could Google, Yahoo or Facebook Be Buyers?

Online business reviewing company Yelp is once again looking at selling itself, according to media reports Thursday. Anonymous sources told The Wall Street Journal that a deal was not imminent, and might not happen at all, and told Bloomberg that the company was working with Goldman Sachs to find a buyer. Shares rose 23 percent Thursday following the rumor, wiping out some of its big losses from earlier this year.

Yelp spokeswoman Shannon Eis said in an email that "we don't comment on rumors or speculation." The popular user-generated ratings and review website has long attracted interest from bigger Internet companies.

"It would make a lot of sense for a (buyer) that wants to dig a little bit deeper into the local markets, and be big enough to buy the company," said Kerry Rice, a San Francisco-based analyst for Needham & Co.

Usual suspects include Google, Facebook and Yahoo, though whether Google would try again after a bid that went sour in 2009 was hard to guess. Yahoo already partners with Yelp by embedding reviews in Yahoo search results.

Big media companies or foreign e-commerce firms such as Rakuten or Alibaba could also be interested, as could like-minded business review companies such as TripAdvisor, Rice said.

"This isn't a new rumor," Rice said. "It happens about once a year that somebody's been interested or there's chatter about interest."

Google sought to buy Yelp in 2009 for about $500 million, but the negotiations "became more of an auction process where it felt like there was blood in the water and the sharks were attacking, it just felt like it wasn't going to end up with Yelp in a good spot," Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman told The Associated Press last year.

Among those who advised against Yelp selling itself to Google was Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

"He felt that Yelp...

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