A Reuters piece today notes various predictions about whether the DoubleGoo acquisition will go through, concluding it will. A couple people interviewed, including Mark Kovner, an antitrust lawyer with Kirkland & Ellis, said the Federal Trade Commission probably wouldn’t block the merger since it’s a vertical one, rather than one between “head-to-head” competitors.
Thing is, the opponents of the merger, particularly Microsoft, are doing their damndest to portray it as just that: a merger of direct competitors. Along with a lawyer representing Microsoft, an industry observer at last month’s Senate hearing on the acquisition, Scott Cleland, president of tech industry research and consulting firm Precursor, took pains to categorize the two firms as competitors.
In his testimony, Cleland suggested the companies compete for the same ad dollars and are “interrelated” by sharing the same viewers, advertisers, publishers and data. “It’s like saying your eyes and your ears don’t compete for your brain’s attention,” Cleland said, later adding, “Google will create a brain where it controls all of the major networks [of viewers, publishers, advertisers and data.]”
Microsoft SVP and General Counsel Brad Smith backed him up, saying the acquisition raises questions regarding the economic implications of allowing the “largest company in Internet advertising” to buy its “most significant competitor.”
If these folks have as much influence as they’d like to, and if they manage to convince Senators and those in the House who may hold a hearing on the deal, it may not simply glide by the FTC.
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