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But the board appears to be taking the talk seriously enough to have hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to advise directors on a possible defense, according to Bloomberg News, which also cited unnamed people. Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

AOL and Blackstone also declined to comment Thursday. Silver Lake didn’t return calls.

Despite Yahoo’s struggles, there are several reasons why the company remains a takeover target.

For starters, Yahoo still boasts one of the world’s best-known brands. Its website remains alluring enough to attract an audience of nearly 600 million, although people have been spending less time there as they hang out more frequently at trendier spots such as Facebook.

Yahoo also owns a 39 percent stake in one of China’s fastest growing companies, the Alibaba Group. That stake presumably would be sold if leveraged buyout firms were to attempt a takeover to make the bid easier to finance. Analysts have estimated that selling Yahoo’s Alibaba holdings and other Asian assets could fetch anywhere from $8 billion to $13 billion, depending on market conditions. That’s a large chunk of Yahoo’s current market value of $21.5 billion.

Bartz has argued that selling the Alibaba stake right now doesn’t make sense because it will likely be worth even more in the years ahead as China’s Internet market continues to grow. That’s a notion some shareholders support.

If AOL and the buyout firms decide to pursue Yahoo, a successful bid would first hinge on whether the offer was high enough. Analysts seem to believe Yahoo’s board would be hard pressed to turn down an offer ranging from $21 to $23 per share after spurning Microsoft two years ago. That would still be 32 percent to 44 percent above Thursday’s closing price, though far less than Microsoft’s final offer of $33.

Analysts aren’t convinced a combination between AOL and Yahoo even makes sense. “I don’t believe putting together two weak, stumbling companies would make the sum greater than its parts,” Wedge Partners analyst Martin Pyykkonen said.

He believes another possible scenario might make more sense: Microsoft pouncing on Yahoo with another takeover bid at a price far below its offer of 2 1/2 years ago.