Yahoo Execs' Reaction: "I Need Some Prozac"
Be careful what you wish for, Jerry Yang.
Because after talking to a dozen Yahoo (YHOO) execs over the weekend after the Microsoft (MSFT) takeover deal cratered, most of whom are vice presidents or above, I have to say that your stock drop isn’t the worst thing you will have to deal with this morning when you pull up at work.
The worst? That’ll be the very hairy eyeballs you will be getting from a lot more of your employees, who are scared silly and a lot peeved by the limb many feel you have dragged them and their stock options out onto.
A major decline in the share price today was of prime concern to those I interviewed, with most hoping it would not dip below $20, based on the possibility of signing a long-rumored ad outsourcing deal with Google (GOOG) soon that could potentially keep the stock higher.
Also of concern: making too many sudden moves to placate Wall Street, like a possible alternative merger with AOL (TWX) (which the Yahoo troops still don’t seem to welcome).
But causing particular dismay was the image of Yahoo’s top execs high-fiving after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer walked away from the deal, an act reported in the New York Times this weekend after the deal was scotched.
“That was very telling, if it was true,” said one exec, who–like everyone–did not want to be named. “It shows a complete lack of connection to the balance of the company.”
And that was the nice quote!
Last night, Yang tried to placate employees a bit by posting an aptly named communication, “OK, so now what,” on Yahoo’s blog called (not so aptly) Yodel Anecdotal. He also took a slap at, presumably, Microsoft’s PR effort and the press coverage around the takeover attempt.
“By the way, I’m sure you’ve all read or watched the news about this. Frankly, there’s a lot of nonsense and misinformation in what’s being reported. Just so we are all clear, here’s what happened. The board took its mission very seriously. We clearly indicated to Microsoft that we were open to a transaction but only if it were on terms that fully recognized the value of Yahoo and was in the best interests of our stockholders.
“No one is celebrating about the outcome of these past three months… and no one should.”
So no high-fiving anymore, right? And, just so we are all clear, everyone at Yahoo I talked to sure isn’t celebrating.
So, here’s a sampling of the feelings, none of which were positive, even though BoomTown tried mightily to get someone to render a more sanguine spin on the proceedings:
“I am in shock.”
“I don’t know if we won or we lost. I think we lost.”
“I don’t love that it was Microsoft, but I think everyone thought $33 was a pretty good offer from a pretty good tech company.”
“Having to face my staff tomorrow will not be so much fun and I need some Prozac, since I don’t know what I can say to them about how our leadership is going to get our company going again.”
“Where’s the Jelly memo when you need it?”
“I can’t really talk to Jerry, since it is difficult to tell a founder tough things he probably needs to hear.”
And, “Do you think we need to do an intervention with Jerry and the board?”
I am not sure that would work, but most employees I talked to thought a new leader at the top of Yahoo would be a good idea to give employees a fresh start and a new outlook.
Suggestions ranged from former Yahoo COO Dan Rosensweig to former Viacom (VIA) CEO Tom Freston to former eBay (EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman (pictured here).
“Jerry could become chairman, Sue [Decker] could remain president and then someone who can really charge in and make drastic change could be CEO,” suggested one exec. “Do you think Meg Whitman would do it?”
Um, no. But, ironically, Whitman was almost Yahoo CEO in a potential merger between Yahoo and eBay that never happened in the late 1990s.
As they will also say someday about 2008’s stillborn takeover of Yahoo by Microsoft: Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.