Icahn't Has Yahoo…Or Can I?
Carl Icahn has finally broken his silence. The outspoken billionaire investor, who’s been oddly quiet since Yahoo (YHOO) announced its advertising partnership with Google (GOOG), finally commented on the deal this morning, saying it “might have some merit.”
In a brief interview with Reuters, Icahn seemed oddly reserved for someone who, up until last week, had always been ready with an unkind word and an outstretched middle finger for Yahoo and its fumbling leadership. Apparently, holding 59 million shares in a company that’s somehow managed to undermine a merger deal with Microsoft (MSFT) that would have valued it at up to $47.5 billion has taken some of the spring out of his step. “While the Google deal is not the same as an offer of $34.375 per share for Yahoo, I am continuing to study it, and it might have some merit,” Icahn said. “I continue to be extremely disappointed with the Yahoo management, but the Google deal might have some merit and seems to be better than the alternative deal proposed by Microsoft.”
Icahn offered no comment on the future of his proxy fight for the company’s board, though one would imagine he must be having some second thoughts about it now that Microsoft has thrown up its hands in disgust and has apparently walked away from the negotiating table for good. And the “change of control” provisions that allow Google or Yahoo to terminate the partnership they’ve just inked in the event that a majority of Yahoo’s board is replaced at its upcoming annual shareholders meeting in August can’t be sitting well with him either.
But not to worry, dissident Yahoo investor Eric Jackson has a plan that may right the company and prevent its current proprietors from driving down its value once again. He’s urging fellow shareholders to vote for a board slate that includes four directors proposed by fellow activist Carl Icahn and five from Yahoo. “I want Icahn to win outright, but I am putting forward this ‘third option’ because I fear several large investors will worry about the operational abilities of Icahn and his team,” Jackson wrote in an essay entitled “Third Option for Yahoo.”
So who would Jackson like to see elected to Yahoo’s board? From Icahn’s slate he recommends Adam Dell, Lucian Bebchuk, John Chapple and Edward Meyer. And from Yahoo’s existing board Vyomesh Joshi, Robert Kotick, Maggie Wilderotter, Gary Wilson and Jerry Yang.
Jerry Yang? Really?
“Although I have been disappointed with the results of Jerry Yang’s tenure as CEO and hold him accountable for the poor outcome with Microsoft, I believe that–as a co-founder–he should remain on this board,” Jackson explained. “Whether or not he remains as CEO is something for the new board to determine. I frankly hold Mr. Bostock [Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock] more responsible for the breakdown in talks with Microsoft. He supposedly has much more experience in such deal-making matters than Yang, and I find it puzzling that he would choose not to attend that fateful May 3 meeting in Seattle, which led to Microsoft finally pulling the plug on their offer.”