As anyone who knows me well will likely expect, I'm not a fan of the headline, though this article is an excellent read if you're interested in the gory details of how the Yahoo/Google deal went south.
When Google's lawyers entered the smooth marble hallways of the Department of Justice on the morning of October 17, they had reason to feel confident. Sure, they were about to face the antitrust division—an experience most companies dread—to defend a proposed deal with Yahoo. But they had to like their chances. In the previous seven years, only one of the mergers that had been brought here had been opposed. And Google wasn't even requesting a full merger. It just wanted the go-ahead to pursue a small deal that it was convinced would benefit consumers, the two companies, and the search-advertising market as a whole. Settling around a large oval table in the conference room, the attorneys from Google and Yahoo prepared to make their arguments. Google wanted to serve its ads for certain search terms on Yahoo's pages in exchange for a share of the revenue those ads generated. It already had similar arrangements with AOL, Ask.com, and countless other Web sites. And the deal wasn't exclusive or permanent.
Tom Barnett, assistant attorney general for antitrust, took his seat at the table and called the meeting to order. The Yahoo lawyers kicked things off by describing their negotiations with DOJ staff; they had already suggested limiting the length of the deal and capping the amount of money in play. Barnett seemed unimpressed. "Staff," he proclaimed, "is irrelevant." He made the decisions around there.