Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Come West, Daniel Loeb: A Silicon Valley Visit As Yahoo’s Activist Shareholder Mulls Proxy Fight

When you own a large chunk of a major Silicon Valley Internet company, it’s probably not a surprise that you want to come to the center of the tech world to have a look around.

But Yahoo — of which Third Point’s Daniel Loeb owns over five percent — is unlikely to get a visit from the activist shareholder, who is in California this week.

Several sources said he has contacted many former Yahoos and other tech execs for meetings in the Internet heartland to chitchat about digital issues.

And, of course, search for possible board members for an alternate slate of directors, in case he decides to wage a proxy fight against Yahoo.

The earliest nominations for directors can be submitted is February 24 for those “shareholder proposals not intended for inclusion in proxy materials and for nomination of director candidates,” according to Yahoo’s corporate bylaws on such matters.

Loeb then has a month after that to submit a competing slate. In addition, many of Yahoo’s major investors are mulling backing Loeb if he initiates a battle for control of the company.

But it’s not a definite move as yet. The New York-based investor has not decided whether he will take on a proxy fight, sources said, given he has yet to assess Yahoo’s new CEO, former eBay exec Scott Thompson.

Thompson was president of the online commerce site’s PayPal payments division.

But while there is a formal process, you will hear a lot of noise coming long before that, unless Yahoo gives Loeb board seats to quiet him down — which is unlikely but possible.

Such an ugly fight is not one Yahoo can afford to have, and it has already shown some cloddish sensibilities in its response to a recent letters by Loeb asking for the ouster of its Chairman Roy Bostock and co-founder and director Jerry Yang.

But given how badly the last Yahoo shareholder tussle with Carl Icahn went, another proxy battle could be deadly, and might drag on through the first half of 2012. In his Yahoo tussle, Icahn ultimately got three seats on the Yahoo board, but eventually went away with everyone the poorer.

And no one wants a replay of that.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle