Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

ISS Gives Starboard the Nod for Two Board Seats in AOL Proxy Fight

A minor victory for the dissident investors waging a proxy fight against AOL: Institutional Shareholder Services is recommending that investors vote for two of Starboard Value LP’s three board nominees.

The shareholder advisory service gave the nod to Starboard CEO Jeff Smith and Dennis Miller, a former partner at Spark Capital. ISS noted that Miller seems less committed to the idea that AOL needs to abandon Patch, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong’s expensive local-news bet.

In a press release, AOL claimed its own victory, noting that ISS didn’t back all three of Starboard’s nominees. “We believe that ISS’s recommendation to dismiss Starboard’s full slate is further evidence that Starboard’s nominees are unqualified to lead AOL.” (Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Starboard had nominated eight board members.)

And it didn’t have anything nice to say about Smith and Miller: “We do not believe that Mr. Smith or Mr. Miller have demonstrated a basic understanding of AOL’s business model, nor do we believe that they have a viable plan for AOL other than to break up and liquidate the company.”

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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