I always had this prediction that MSN and MR. Gates were just waiting to pounce to become the number engine. In my opinion it would be great news.

Quote: Microsoft seen as lead suitor for AOL
Deal still uncertain, could be several weeks away, newspaper reports

Microsoft Corp., the world's largest software maker, has emerged as the lead suitor for a stake in Time Warner Inc.'s Internet unit America Online, according to a report by The New York Times.

If Microsoft were to complete a deal, it would fold its MSN Internet service into a venture with AOL, the newspaper said. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

Any deal could be weeks away, and there are no assurances that Microsoft will prevail. Other suitors seeking a stake in AOL include Google Inc., Comcast Corp., Yahoo Inc. and News Corp. sources familiar with the situation have said.

Time Warner is interested in selling a stake in AOL in part to boost its flatlining stock price, which has never recovered from the damage of the historic merger that created the media giant in 2001. The company's stock traded at over $50 a share shortly after the merger, compared with about $18 currently.

A deal combining the AOL and MSN portals would make the resulting the site the most visited on the Internet, making it especially attractive to advertisers.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates told The New York Times in an interview last week that his interest in AOL was about playing a greater role in the future of advertising, the newspaper said.

Time Warner Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Parsons acknowledged the talks for the first time last week but said, "We don't know if they will result in any transaction or what form any transaction will take," according to the Times.

One issue that has yet to be resolved in any deal is how the resulting venture would be governed. Time Warner does not want to cede control unless it receives a "very rich offer," the newspaper said.

Microsoft and Time Warner could not be immediately reached for comment.