Oath CEO Tim Armstrong is reportedly considering buying out of Verizon and spinning out Oath, the combined entity of AOL and Yahoo, as a standalone company.
According to The Information, talks between Armstrong and Verizon aren’t currently underway, but interest in separating Verizon and Oath is still present. While Armstrong reportedly wants Oath to be a standalone company, other investors are pushing for a private equity funded buyout where Verizon stays on as a shareholder.
In either case, buying Oath from Verizon would reportedly cost around $10 billion. Verizon paid approximately $9 billion combined for AOL (which it bought in 2015) and Yahoo (which it bought last year).
Any discussions of splitting off Oath are reportedly stemming from Verizon’s upcoming CEO transition. Current CEO Lowell McAdam is retiring at the end of the year and Hans Vestberg is taking his place. As the report points out, McAdam helped spearhead Verizon’s push into media through the AOL and Yahoo deals, while Vestberg (a former CEO for network company Ericsson) is expected to shift Verizon’s resources toward 5G networks.
The report also said that Oath has been somewhat frustrated by the difficulty in gaining access to Verizon’s customer data. The process has been hamstrung by Verizon’s privacy rules, which allow subscribers to opt into data collection programs, meaning customer data is often either not available or there are delays in gaining access to it.
Should Verizon allow Oath to be spun off, it would mean the operator is moving in a dramatically different direction that its chief rival AT&T. AT&T just closed a $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner and now controls one of the U.S.’s largest media companies. A key component of AT&T’s business moving forward will be the advertising segment that marries content from Turner networks like CNN and TNT with AT&T’s huge caches of TV, mobile and broadband customer data.