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Some of Bartz’s comments also may have ruffled some feathers at Alibaba Group, a Chinese Internet company in which Yahoo owns a 39 percent stake. If that’s true, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma conceivably could help potential Yahoo bidders to finance a takeover by agreeing to buy back Yahoo’s stake in his company after a deal is done.

And if Yahoo shareholders or the company’s board are tired of Bartz’s leadership, selling to AOL would be one way of bringing in a fresh face who is highly regarded in technology and media circles.

AOL is run by Tim Armstrong, a former Google executive who is trying to feature more unique content on AOL in an effort to bring in more advertising revenue.

Those efforts haven’t done much yet. AOL’s revenue fell 25 percent to $1.24 billion during the first half of this year. Yahoo’s revenue increased 1 percent

If it were to buy Yahoo, AOL would gain access to one of the Internet’s largest audiences as it tries to burnish its own brand.

The specter of a possible takeover bid will likely intensify the interest in Yahoo’s third-quarter earnings report due out next Tuesday. Analysts are already bracing for another round of lackluster results, and if that holds true, it could set the stage for an offer.

Microsoft launched its unsolicited takeover bid in early 2008, just days after Yahoo announced a disappointing quarterly performance.