Where in the World Is Yahoo's Board?
With a $10 stock price, the turning down of Microsoft’s $31 a share offer, a collapsed search advertising deal with Google (GOOG), fleeing execs and bad news aplenty, it’s easy to blame Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and call for his ouster.
After all, the buck does stop with him.
Or does it? Because, to my mind, if there is anyone to cast stones at in the ongoing crisis at Yahoo, BoomTown would have to toss a large boulder in the direction of the company’s incredibly shrinking board.
The board is, after all, Yang’s boss and the ones charged with keeping Yahoo (YHOO) on track. That’s why their apparent stasis is just astonishing, if it were not quite so appalling.
And that’s also the opinion of major Yahoo investors, who have been watching with horror as their equity in the company has also shrunk to an infinitesimal size, with little apparent movement by the directors of Yahoo.
“They have no sense of urgency or seem to feel any pressure to do anything, even though by every metric they have failed,” said one investor I recently spoke to, who has been in touch with some Yahoo board members recently. “Should they kick Jerry out? Should they restart talks with Microsoft? Should they consider other options to turn the company around? And while they’re telling me they are going to do something, nothing happens.”
Said another big investor: “With all the other things going on in the economy, I have just decided to move on and write Yahoo off…but the lack of action by the board is really hard to understand.”
What’s hard to know is exactly what new board member Carl Icahn–the billionaire shareholder activist (pictured here), who joined after a very public fight with Yahoo, along with two others he hand-picked, former Nextel CEO John Chapple and former Viacom exec Frank Biondi–has been up to.
Not much, it seems, for the typically noisy gadfly, who owns five percent of Yahoo and has lost a fortune doing so.
Last week, Icahn did suddenly pop up on CNBC and make a declaration: “We believe as large shareholders that eventually we at Yahoo should, if available, make a deal with Microsoft to do search. We could save a fortune at Yahoo if Microsoft could do search for us.”
Yang himself made a similar suggestion at the Web 2.0 Summit last week that Yahoo was open to a deal to sell the whole company to Microsoft.
It was an offer Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer shot down the very next day, although the software giant is still obviously interested in a search deal.
But sources at Microsoft tell me that Ballmer has said recently that he has no idea who to work with at the company to get anything done and that Yahoo–especially its board, since his relations with Yang have not been successful–has to be the one to act first.
That means, of course, that the ball is squarely in the Yahoo board’s court to do something–at this point, really, anything.
And those directors should be hard at work trying to hit it, instead of not even deigning to take a swing.