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Verizon’s Deafening Silence on Yahoo Deal

September 27, 2016, 7:06 PM UTC
Key Speakers At The Yahoo! Inc. Mobile Developer Conference
Marissa Mayer, president and chief executive officer at Yahoo! Inc., listens to a reporters question during a press conference at the Yahoo! Inc. Mobile Developer Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. Mayer unveiled a suite of development tools for mobile applications that integrate its own advertising services with features it acquired with analytics startup Flurry Inc.
Photograph by David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

For a company whose tagline used to be “Can you hear me now,” Verizon has been awfully quiet about its commitment to buying Yahoo.

Five days ago, Yahoo admitted that over 500 million user accounts were hacked in 2014, by a “state-sponsored” actor that made out with such information as email addresses, birth dates and encrypted passwords. Verizon (VZ), which agreed in late July to acquire Yahoo (YHOO) for $4.8 billion, said that Yahoo only had informed it of the situation two days before the public disclosure, and that it “will evaluate as the investigation continues.”

Since then, Verizon has issued no more public statements on the situation. Tim Armstrong, head of Verizon-owned AOL and a key driver of the merger, repeatedly dodged questions about how the hack would affect the deal being renegotiated, let alone consummated, during a Monday morning interview on CNBC.

One key moment in that interview comes at 2:20, when CNBC’s Becky Quick mentions that Yahoo had known about the breach at least by July ― likely in reference to this Motherboard story. Yahoo has since said that the alleged hack described by Motherboard is different than the hack it just confirmed, but Armstrong does not make that distinction. Instead, he simply says “right,” before going on to say that Verizon still doesn’t know when Yahoo first knew about the confirmed hack.

You read that correctly: Armstrong first seems to dispute Yahoo’s own statement. Then, he admits that his company has been unable to get basic (and vital) information from Yahoo after nearly a full week, despite being the latter’s future owner.

Related: Could Yahoo hack kill its Verizon deal?

It’s one thing for Yahoo to stonewall the media on this. Or even its customers. But Verizon?

I have no inside knowledge of what Verizon is currently thinking about its commitment toward Yahoo, but the analogy I keep coming back to is the coach or manager of a troubled professional sports team. If the owner refuses to give a public vote of confidence, that usually means a pink slip is coming…