Rakuten

Liar, liar: Viber CEO's pants on fire?

February 14, 2014: 1:09 PM ET

Talmon Marco denied his company was in acquisition talks, three days before announcing $900 million deal with Rakuten.

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FORTUNE -- When news breaks that a company is in talks to be acquired, we all wait with bated breath to see what the company's CEO has to say about it. Does he acknowledge its veracity? Does he decline comment? Does he try to be cute, saying something like "We're looking forward to being independent for a long time, but of course we pick up the phone if someone calls." Or does he issue an outright denial?

We generally believe the explicit affirmations and denials, because few CEOs want to be known as a bald-faced liar. Not only to the public at large, but also to his employees and customers.

So what to make of Talmon Marco, CEO of Cyprus-based instant messaging company Viber?

On Tuesday, an Israeli financial newspaper reported that Viber was in talks to be acquired by an Asian media company for between $300 million and $400 million. When contacted about the report by Reuters, Marco reportedly said he had "no idea what this is about," adding that the company was not in the midst of sales negotiations.

Then comes official word this morning (i.e., three days later) that Japan's Rakuten Inc. has agreed to buy Viber for around $900 million.

So let me try to be extremely charitable: Perhaps Marco had "no idea" what the original report was about, because the newspaper got Viber's sale price wrong by more than 100%. And perhaps the company was not in talks to sell, because those talks had already concluded.

The only alternative is that Marco is a liar who no reporter or employee should ever trust again. Yeah, that makes more sense.

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