Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo Annual Meeting Countdown (3 Days to Go!): Jerry's Staying Put!

It is not exactly news that influential major Yahoo investor Gordon Crawford (pictured here) was displeased with Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, given the amount of money Crawford must have lost by now, backing the troubled Internet company.

While BoomTown referenced it in a more veiled way last week, the New York Post yesterday reported that the Capital Research Global Investors honcho was considering withholding votes from Yang and others on its current board at Yahoo’s annual meeting Friday to show his unhappiness publicly.

More to the point, I would assume the move is to perhaps prompt others to ponder whether Yang should remain in his current job for much longer.

What effect that will have on Yang, though, will probably be negligible–except for perhaps feeling badly, as he has great regard for Crawford–because I think he has never been more determined to stay put.

In fact, I predict a series of partnerships and high-profile announcements–starting this week ahead of the annual meeting–to give Yahoo and Yang the image of momentum they dearly need.

While many kibitz over Yang’s fate and wonder who activist investor Carl Icahn is dreaming of replacing him with once he gets on board (AOL’s Jon Miller? Google’s Tim Armstrong?) at the company, I think Yang is aiming at finally getting the chance to prove he can run Yahoo without the Sturm and Drang of a hostile takeover hanging over him.

Yang (pictured here) clearly thinks he deserves more time to turn around Yahoo’s core businesses and improve employee morale.

And he will probably get it, if he wants to stay, because there is actually no one who can effectively oust him, until, that is, Yahoo (YHOO) stock drops to the mid-teens based on troublesome future financial signals.

That could come if the Google (GOOG) search-ad outsourcing deal does not pan out as well as expected, for example, especially in the current economic downturn, or if Yang cannot hang onto the talent he has left to work with.

But all these chickens, should they come home to roost, are at least six to nine months away, the same amount of time Yang has been caught in Yahoo’s current Twilight Zone of mess.

Of course, due to all that, Yang’s tenure has been particularly rocky, almost since he took over in a rush from former CEO Terry Semel.

It was at last year’s board meeting on June 12 that Yang told those assembled that he had no interest in filling the then-open CTO slot, even jokingly saying he preferred to play golf.

Of course, he was in the CEO seat within a week, part of some still-mysterious moves that got Semel out and Yang in.

Does it feel like 134 years since then, or is it just me?

It certainly must feel like a long time to Yang, although he seems only to have gotten more emboldened throughout this whole circus, made up largely of what feels like an endless series of freak acts.

Such hijinks are a nightmare to mannered investors like Crawford, who frowns on such behavior from all sides and tries to convince the leadership of companies he invests in to act with more realism and less emotion.

Too bad the Yahoo situation has been a soap opera from the start, which is definitely not what Crawford likes.

I wrote about the troubled relationship between Crawford and Yahoo when the threat of a proxy fight by Icahn was still looming.

Sources then told me that Crawford was considering backing Icahn, who is not exactly his first choice. But his dissatisfaction with Yahoo leadership was by then running very deep.

I also posted, for Yang’s benefit, an excerpt from my second book about how the normally polite, erudite and calm Crawford had finally had enough with AOL Time Warner’s (TWX) Steve Case and helped give him the heave-ho many years ago.

Crawford’s Capital Research Global Investors fund–one of two separately managed at Capital Research & Management–owns 6.5 percent of Yahoo, according to recent filings. (Capital World Investors, which is not run by Crawford, owns 9.8 percent.)

Thus, when he wants to, Crawford can wield a mighty cudgel–and a vote of “no confidence” by withholding votes, especially such a big stake, would clearly look bad for Yang, even if it were largely a symbolic move.

But bad does not mean fatal, and it could be, once again, that Yang will live to fight yet another day.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald