Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo’s Activist Shareholder Loeb Now Targeting Jerry Yang and Wants Him Off the Board

Third Point’s Daniel Loeb — the smack-tastic hedge fund manager who has bought up a 5.23 percent stake in the Silicon Valley Internet giant and has been hitting some of Yahoo’s board upside the head with those shares ever since — is now taking aim at its co-founder and director Jerry Yang. Loeb wants him to step down as a director due to conflict of interest.

Loeb also reiterated his threat of a proxy fight to get control of the board. In fact, sources in Silicon Valley said he has already been reaching out to potential alternative board members.

In a previous 13-D filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Loeb had backed Yang against Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock.

But that’s all over. Reports have surfaced that Yang has been trying to get a private equity firm to back a plan that would keep him and current management in charge of the company.

In a new letter to the Yahoo board today, Loeb said that Yang’s attempt amounts to cronyism and self-dealing.

Wrote Loeb, in part:

We are deeply concerned by news reports that you are considering a leveraged recapitalization that will allow private equity firms to gain substantial equity positions that will, when combined with Jerry Yang’s and David Filo’s ownership, effectively establish a controlling position in Yahoo. More troubling are reports that Mr. Yang is engaging in one-off discussions with private equity firms, presumably because it is in his best personal interests to do so. The Board and the Strategic Committee should not have permitted Mr. Yang to engage in these discussions, particularly given his ineptitude in dealing with the Microsoft negotiations to purchase the Company in 2008; it is now clear that he is simply not aligned with shareholders. At a bare minimum, Mr. Yang must declare whether he is a buyer or a seller — he cannot be both. If we are correct and he is effectively a buyer, corporate ethics require him to recuse himself from any further discussions on behalf of the Company. He should also be requested by the Company to promptly leave the Board and join Mr. Filo in solely an operating capacity.

Loeb is also demanding two seats on the board; in fact, the ones he hopes will be vacated by Bostock and Yang.

While it is likely the Yahoo board will try to minimize the Loeb letter, which is below in its entirety, other shareholders hold the same opinion of the prospects of the same-old-same-old staying on at Yahoo.

“Nothing can excuse such an action, and shareholders will not be bought off with a dividend of our own money while value is destroyed,” wrote Loeb, channeling a lot of others I have spoken to about a Yang insider deal.

Here is the full letter, Yahoo’s tiresomely typical (and borderline fibbish — but I will get to that later) rejoinder, as well the the new 13-D filing by Loeb:

Third Point LLC Letter to Yahoo! Inc. Board of Directors

NEW YORK — (BUSINESS WIRE) — Third Point Requests Two Yahoo Board Seats, Demands Yang’s Resignation from Board, and Opposes Reported Negotiations for “Sweetheart” Deal with Private Equity Firms

About Third Point LLC: Third Point is an investment firm headquartered in New York, managing $8.0 billion in assets, including a London Stock Exchange listed closed-end fund. Founded in 1995, Third Point follows an event-driven approach to investing globally.

Board of Directors
Yahoo! Inc.
701 First Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
Dear Members of the Board of Directors:

As you are aware, Third Point LLC (“Third Point”) manages investment funds that are, collectively, the second largest shareholder of Yahoo! Inc. (“Yahoo” or the “Company”).

We are deeply concerned by news reports that you are considering a leveraged recapitalization that will allow private equity firms to gain substantial equity positions that will, when combined with Jerry Yang’s and David Filo’s ownership, effectively establish a controlling position in Yahoo. More troubling are reports that Mr. Yang is engaging in one-off discussions with private equity firms, presumably because it is in his best personal interests to do so. The Board and the Strategic Committee should not have permitted Mr. Yang to engage in these discussions, particularly given his ineptitude in dealing with the Microsoft negotiations to purchase the Company in 2008; it is now clear that he is simply not aligned with shareholders. At a bare minimum, Mr. Yang must declare whether he is a buyer or a seller — he cannot be both. If we are correct and he is effectively a buyer, corporate ethics require him to recuse himself from any further discussions on behalf of the Company. He should also be requested by the Company to promptly leave the Board and join Mr. Filo in solely an operating capacity.

In our view, a leveraged recapitalization makes no sense and its only purpose would be to put substantial equity stakes into friendly hands to entrench management and transfer effective control without payment of a premium or even, it appears, a shareholder vote. Nothing can excuse such an action, and shareholders will not be bought off with a dividend of our own money while value is destroyed.

Moreover, such a transaction would undermine the basic tenets of free markets, including democratic voting, accountability and fairness. We do not blame our friends at the private equity firms rumored to be involved for trying to get the best deal possible for their investors; we have great respect for these firms and their leaders — Jim Coulter of Texas Pacific Group, Jonathan Nelson of Providence Equity Partners, Glenn Hutchins of Silver Lake, Henry Kravis of KKR and Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone. However, we at Third Point are also in the value-maximizing business. We will not tolerate any transaction which appropriates for insiders opportunities that duly belong to current Yahoo shareholders. However, we would welcome the prospect of any of these firms’ presence on a reconstituted Yahoo Board of Directors and work on a long-term strategy for the Company should it be necessary for us to pursue a proxy contest next year.

If you, as board members, undertake the current course of action, Third Point will hold you personally responsible for such a flagrant violation of your duty of loyalty. Any transaction with a third party who assists members of management and the board in protecting their jobs, and/or involves the effective sale or transfer of control without payment of a control premium, will likewise be subject to scrutiny.

Given the Board’s inability — or perhaps unwillingness — to properly solicit true strategic alternative bids, let alone to negotiate them, Third Point demands that we be awarded two board seats — those created by the vacancies of Chairman Bostock and Mr. Yang, or two newly-created ones. We are prepared to assume these positions immediately.

Sincerely,

Daniel S. Loeb
Chief Executive Officer
Third Point LLC
390 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10022

Yahoo’s Board of Directors’ objective is, and always has been, to serve the best interests of all the company’s shareholders. The Board’s comprehensive strategic review is being properly managed for the benefit of all shareholders and is guided by outside counsel for the independent directors and investment bankers retained separately by the Board. The Board of Directors (eight independents and Mr. Yang) controls the strategic review process and has directed its Transactions and Strategic Planning Committee (comprised of four independent directors) to manage the process day-to-day and report regularly to the Board.

News reports based on rumor and speculation are just that. The Board’s comprehensive strategic review process is still underway, with a wide range of options under active consideration. We can assure all Yahoo shareholders that whatever the outcome of the strategic review process may be, it will serve the best interests of all the company’s shareholders.

Mr. Yang is one of 9 directors with the exact same fiduciary duties and motivation as all of his fellow directors — to serve the best interests of all the company’s shareholders. The Board and the Transactions and Strategic Planning Committee initiate, direct, and oversee any work Mr. Yang undertakes in relation to the strategic review process.

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