After facing shareholders, Yang must fulfill promises
IDG News Service - Yahoo Inc. CEO Jerry Yang will face a tough crowd at Friday's shareholders meeting, but the expected tongue-lashing is likely the least of his worries as he stares at the towering list of promises he has made and must fulfill.
Since replacing former CEO Terry Semel in mid-2007, Yang has been assuring employees, partners, external developers, publishers, advertisers and online-service consumers that he has a foolproof plan to get Yahoo back on track financially and technologically.
For shareholders, the problem with Yang's rhetoric is that when he took over from Semel, Yahoo's stock price was in the $27 to $28 range. Thursday, it closed at $19.89, far from the $33 per share Microsoft Corp. offered before negotiations collapsed in early May, and very close to the $19.18 price on Jan. 31, the day prior to the bid's announcement.
"There is a lot of anger and discontent among shareholders. It will be lively tomorrow," said IDC analyst Karsten Weide in a phone interview.
Activist investor Eric Jackson, president of Ironfire Capital, plans to attend and get vocal at the meeting in San Jose's Fairmont Hotel, and he's encouraging others to do the same. "[The meeting] will be an opportunity for us to speak up and make our voices heard. If you're in the Bay Area, I encourage you to come out.... Hopefully, we'll have a lively set of questions posed to the Yahoo board in a true direct fashion," Jackson wrote on his blog Monday.
While the meeting will give shareholders a soapbox from which they can vent their frustrations, the event is also of significance to Yahoo end users, advertisers, publishers, partners and developers who are trusting that Yang and his team will deliver the promised goods.
With Microsoft no longer circling the waters and a deal in place to appease Carl Icahn -- who wanted to kick out the entire board and boot Yang from the CEO throne -- Yahoo's management now has no excuse for the company's underperformance.
After all, at the meeting, despite the likely sound and fury from the floor, the current board will retain a solid majority -- eight members -- as part of an agreement that grants seats to Icahn and two of his candidates. This leaves Yang and his team on much more solid job-security ground.
Or maybe not. Industry analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group said he wouldn't be surprised if -- either at the meeting or shortly afterward -- there are announcements of top management changes involving either the replacement of Yang as CEO or the addition of a new executive in a prominent role, possibly former AOL CEO Jonathan Miller, a candidate for an Icahn seat.
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