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Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Bill Gates checks out professional online network

LINKEDIN Some analysts may be happy to see Gates taking an interest in the Internet startup instead of forking out more than US$40 billion for a slumping Yahoo

AP , San Francisco,And Sunnyvale, California

AP, SAN FRANCISCO and SUNNYVALE, California

Microsoft's big bet on Facebook's online social network isn't stopping chairman Bill Gates from promoting other popular Internet hangouts.

Gates is helping out LinkedIn Corp's online professional network by setting up a profile on the service and posing a question to help draw more attention to a makeover of the Web site's front page.

The question, scheduled to be posted yesterday, will solicit suggestions on the best way to encourage more young people to pursue careers in science and technology.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn will encourage its 19 million members to try out a new tool that will let them broadcast their daily activities to their connections. The "status" feature copies one of the top applications on Facebook's site, which revolves around a more playful premise than LinkedIn's buttoned-down atmosphere.

Gates plans to use LinkedIn's status feature, although he decided against listing "trying to buy Yahoo" as his current activity. He instead will start off by letting everyone know "Bill is checking out LinkedIn."

The decision to take a closer look at LinkedIn might please a few industry analysts who have argued Microsoft would be better off buying several up-and-coming Internet startups like LinkedIn instead of pursuing its current bid to acquire slumping Yahoo Inc for more than US$40 billion.

Although LinkedIn is frequently mentioned as an attractive takeover target, the Mountain View-based company so far has indicated it is more likely to make an initial public offering of stock during the next year or two.

LinkedIn spokeswoman Kay Luo declined to comment on Microsoft's possible interest.

Separately, Yahoo is facing seven shareholder lawsuits alleging the slumping Internet pioneer bungled its response to Microsoft's unsolicited takeover bid.

Microsoft late last year invested US$240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in Palo Alto-based Facebook Inc, whose 66 million members make it the Internet's second largest social network behind News Corp's MySpace.

The Sunnyvale-based company provided a breakdown of the suits in an annual report filed on Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The documents didn't provide any new information about Yahoo's attempts to fend off Microsoft.

Yahoo's board believes Microsoft's offer is insufficient. But Microsoft has stood firm and is now preparing to overthrow Yahoo's 10-member board, which includes the company's co-founder and chief executive, Jerry Yang (楊致遠). Microsoft faces a March 14 deadline to nominate an alternate slate of directors.

The impasse has triggered four shareholder suits in California's Santa Clara County Superior Court. Three other complaints have been filed in Delaware by pension funds that own Yahoo's stock.

Five of the suits allege Yahoo's board breached its duty by spurning Microsoft without trying to negotiate a better deal, according to the annual report.

The two other suits allege Yahoo unfairly favored Microsoft's "inadequate" bid even though the board eventually turned down the original cash-and-stock offer of US$31 per share.

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