Who's Buying DoubleClick?

Last week, Microsoft was the rumored acquirer of DoubleClick's remaining businesses, which include the DART ad serving system and Performics search and affiliate marketing platform. This week, The Wall Street Journal (subscriber link) is pointing toward Google as the likely acquirer, citing "people familiar with the situation."

The unnamed source(s) tell WSJ that Microsoft has appeared less likely to win the bidding as the potential price for the company surpassed $2 billion, though Microsoft may still counter Google's offer. Yahoo and AOL are also named as suitors, according to the source.

If this kind of sourceless, baseless reporting didn't happen so often, I'd be tempted to think this was an April Fool's joke. But alas, the WSJ says it's so, but can't back it up with any real proof, and everyone is convinced that Google has already signed the check.

Here's the thing. Somebody -- or more likely multiple somebodies -- are bound to buy DoubleClick's remaining assets. The private equity firm that bought it two years ago, Hellman & Friedman, has made no secret that everything's for sale.

But for $2 billion plus? As Kate Kaye points out, H&F have already made $90 million from selling DoubleClick's e-mail business and $435 million selling off Abacus. So, if they do sell the rest for $2 billion, they'll have made about 2.5 times the $1.1 billion they paid. I'm not sure DoubleClick is worth that much, but if H&F makes that much, it will be a happy day for its investors.