The prospective partners are thought to have held preliminary discussions in which Google could partly finance a deal but have not come up with a formal proposal
Any bid is likely to attract fierce scrutiny on competition grounds, with a tie-up, even in a joint venture with private equity partners, likely to further boost Google’s dominance.
Google could not be reached for comment.
A deal would also raise questions about Microsoft’s relationship with Yahoo. The software giant, which had a $44.6bn (£28.5bn) bid for the firm rejected in 2008, has forged a partnership in which Microsoft’s Bing search engine is integrated into Yahoo’s portal.
Microsoft has already been linked with a possible move for the company, albeit for a price closer to its current market cap of $18bn than its previous offer.
A bid may also involve a tie-up with a private equity firm, people familiar with the matter have said.
Yahoo has been in a state of chaos since it fired former chief executive Carol Bartz last month. The company retained investment banking firm Allen & Co to help conduct a “strategic review” of its business and is reportedly working with executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles to find a new boss.
A number of potential buyers have expressed interest in a deal with Yahoo. Private equity firms Silver Lake Partners, Providence Equity Partners, Bain Capital, Hellman & Friedman, Blackstone Group, and KKR are among those likely to get a look at the limited financial data Yahoo’s advisers are circulating.
It is not clear which private equity firms Google has spoken to, according to the Wall Street Journal.