In a talk with The New Yorker writer Ken Auletta as part of a Newhouse School lecture series, Semel was asked what his dumbest decision was after taking the job at the Net media company in 2001.
Shortly after joining Yahoo, Semel said, company founders Jerry Yang and David Filo suggested he look at buying up-and-comer Google, whose Stanford grad founders looked up Yahoo's inventors. So Semel said he had dinner with Larry Page and Sergey Brin, asking them what their business was with Yahoo paying only $7 million annually as its biggest licensor of Google search technology.
"They had no thought process on the subject," Semel said.
So Semel nevertheless asked to buy Google. They replied that they wanted $1 billion and didn't want to sell. Semel said he'd think about the price.
Another dinner and Semel agreed to the $1 billion. Larry and Sergey replied that they wanted $3 billion and didn't want to sell. "I couldn't and didn't buy this company and the rest is history," Semel said
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