Tech companies beware, a bear may be outside your door

Electronic Arts' unsolicited buyout bid for Take-Two is just one of three high-profile technology "bear hugs" in the past four months.

Has your tech company played coy with a potential suitor lately? You may want to rethink your reaction.

In the past four months, Oracle, Microsoft, and Electronic Arts have all launched high-profile, unsolicited buyout bids for reluctant targets. Such efforts are otherwise known as bear hugs.

Oracle put the squeeze on middleware competitor BEA Systems in October; Microsoft did likewise with Yahoo at the start of this month; and on Sunday, EA made a play for rival game publisher Take-Two Interactive Software .

Did someone forget to put the lid back on the honey jar?

In the case of Oracle, it was ultimately successful in forcing BEA Systems down the merger aisle after a three-month chase around the kitchen table and no white knight to intervene. Sure, a couple potential suitors talked of coming to the rescue, but ultimately none of them saddled up .

And like a Hollywood movie that's been recast with a tweak, a virtual rerun is unfolding with the Yahoo's efforts to fend off Microsoft. There's talk of News Corp. or AOL stepping in to offer aid, but odds makers give those prospects a long-shot.

But what really serves as the common thread among Oracle/BEA, Microsoft/Yahoo, and now EA/Take-Two is that the parties had previously expressed an interest in acquiring the target companies from as early as a year before starting a bear hug.

So, dust off your calendar. Who's gently knocked on your company's door in the past year about a potential merger? You might want to stash the honey jar and hire some bear trackers.

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