As He Bids to Buy Company, What Are Dan Gilbert’s Plans for Yahoo?

According to a report published in the Detroit News today, Quicken Loans chairman Dan Gilbert is serious enough about buying Yahoo that he’s lined up financing from investor Warren Buffett, the second-richest man in America. Buffett told CNBC Monday that his firm, Berkshire Hathaway, has offered to be a potential finance partner while Gilbert leads negotiations. Gilbert could not be reached for comment.

For roughly the past five years, Gilbert has been snapping up vacant skyscrapers and office buildings in downtown Detroit with the stated goal of establishing a tech hub there. An April 28 News article described Gilbert and his property management arm, Bedrock Detroit, as a major force in Motor City real estate and said he now has a stake in 62 downtown properties; blocks of Woodward Avenue, a main artery that runs all the way to the Northern suburbs and is the future home of the 3.3 mile QLINE—Gilbert bought the naming rights—streetcar line; and at least 17,000 parking spaces.

As the News wrote, “Gilbert is so closely identified with the downtown business district that the phrase ‘Gilbertville’ has been used by both admirers and critics.” Since he began building his downtown empire, Gilbert has relocated thousands of his employees downtown, launched the now defunct Bizdom startup incubator, co-founded the Detroit Venture Partners venture capital firm, and transformed the Madison Building into a Valleyesque space for tech companies complete with slurpee machines and ping-pong tables. Detroit, though, is still not quite a hub. Still, while  nobody knows where Yahoo would be located post-purchase, one imagines that importing hundreds of workers to Detroit from even a leaner, meaner Yahoo would get Gilbert to his goal virtually overnight.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Gilbert has contemplated bringing Yahoo’s employees to his Detroit properties. In 2012, shortly after Yahoo cut 2,000 jobs, Quicken Loans spearheaded an initiative to entice recently laid off staffers to apply for the many open tech jobs in metro Detroit. (There was even a website created to facilitate the process called Valley2Detroit.com, but it’s no longer functioning.) The plan was to woo former Yahoo workers by offering an expedited hiring process and other benefits.

In an April 2012 TechCrunch article, Xconomist Josh Linkner, former CEO and managing partner of Detroit Venture Partners, “[argued] that there are about 12 start-ups in his company’s portfolio that ‘would be attractive to those looking to regain the excitement of working in a creative, collaborative, and entrepreneurial environment.’ ” A Google search for what kind of results the program yielded didn’t turn up anything, but we’ve reached out to Quicken and will update the story if we get that information.

Today, the News reports that Yahoo is currently entertaining its second round of potential offers. Verizon, which bought AOL last year for $4.4 billion, is reportedly in the running with Gilbert. Yahoo’s fortunes have been in decline since its peak early last decade, when it was worth $255 billion. The Silicon Valley-based tech company is now valued at $35 billion and has had a rotating cast of CEOs of late—six over the past nine years, the News reports.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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