Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo Players Burkle, Icahn, Crawford and Also the Web Make Some News (Some, Not So Good)

You would have to have been under a rock not to have heard about the controversial piece in Vanity Fair magazine this month about the escapades of former President Bill Clinton since he left office.

Called “The Comeback Id” (oh, how pun-ny!), the article has gotten a lot of attention for pointing out the rampant speculation that Clinton’s well-known penchant for marital infidelity had returned.

ronburkle

And the reason for that disturbing development, besides Clinton himself? The piece actually placed a good bit of the blame on Clinton’s close friend, grocery magnate and billionaire Ron Burkle (pictured here), who also has been one of the key directors at Yahoo (YHOO) in its takeover fight with Microsoft (MSFT).

It’s a wonder Burkle can focus on the turmoil at Yahoo, given how busy he appears to be in the article corrupting Clinton both personally and–worse–professionally, via some questionable investments the pair had made through Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies.

Writer Todd Purdum paints a decidedly unattractive picture of Burkle, noting even the tasteless nickname of Burkle’s plane these days, in a portrayal so rough that Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang’s tough treatment by the press recently looks like a walk in the park.

carlicahn

Well, almost.

In what amounts to a rant by Carl Icahn (pictured here), The Wall Street Journal gives the billionaire investor lots of room to kvetch about what he thinks of Yang, including asserting that he will oust the Yahoo founder if he wins his proxy fight against the company.

“I am amazed at the lengths that Jerry Yang and the board went to entrench themselves in this situation,” said Icahn.

Apparently, Icahn was the only one who didn’t get the memo that Yahoo has been consistently obstreperous about Microsoft’s many overtures, since–well, let’s do the exact calculations–forever. And a day.

Still, Icahn perseveres and hangs this old entrenched management chestnut on a lawsuit that was recently filed by shareholders that points to the massive and costly severance plan Yahoo sneakily put into place as a ploy to fend off Microsoft.

“It’s no longer a mystery to me why Microsoft’s offer isn’t around,” Icahn said. “How can Yahoo keep saying they’re willing to negotiate and sell the company on the one hand, while at the same time they’re completely sabotaging the process without telling anyone.”

How? By Yang opening his mouth, that’s how, and then doing nothing much.

As a student of this lugubrious style of Olympic dithering, I would point Icahn to Yang’s 100-day Sacred Cow VisionQuest, well before this soap opera got started.

You need to catch up pronto, Carl!

gordoncrawford

And speaking of people irked by Yang of late, investor Gordon Crawford (pictured here) also made some news yesterday with his investment in Veoh Networks, part of a $30 million round that included Intel Capital and Adobe Systems (ADBE).

Existing investors in the not-YouTube video service–Shelter Capital, Spark Capital, Goldman Sachs (GS), Michael Eisner’s Tornante Company, Time Warner Investments (TWX) and Jonathan Dolgen–also ponied up more money.

Crawford, the SVP of Capital Research Global Investors, manages a massive portfolio, and it is one of Yahoo’s biggest shareholders.

And, unlike Veoh, Yahoo is an investment Crawford has not been happy with recently.

“I am extremely angry at Jerry Yang and at the so-called independent board,” he said in an interview a month ago. “I’m hoping that there is such an outpouring of outrage that the board is embarrassed into revisiting this thing, but I’m not optimistic about that.”

And by independent board, by the way, he meant directors like–you guessed it–Ron Burkle!

At least Burkle’s not to blame for the so-so, lots-and-lots-missing–Google? What Google? (GOOG)–piece in the same Vanity Fair issue, an oral history of the Internet.

Called “How the Web Was Won,” it makes the founding of the world’s most important medium seem awfully dull.

vfjolie

I’d recommend instead–as any sentient being would–the cover story on Angelina Jolie, with this sharp quote from her: “In my father’s generation, the product was 80% of what you were putting into the world, and your personal life was 20%. It now seems that 80% of the product I put out is silly, made-up stories and what I’m wearing.”

Or not wearing, in the case of the pictures of Jolie in this article.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work