Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jerry Yang's Recent Antics At Yahoo

The comedy that is Yahoo continues, even in the wake of Carol Bartz' departure.

Jerry Yang, in a Wall Street Journal article last week, was described as claiming to be 'Chief Yahoo' and wanting to organize holding of a significant percentage of the firm's equity, while also allegedly fielding overtures for sale.

Yang, as the piece noted, can't be both buyer and seller, and acting CEO. There are too many conflicts.

Personally, I can't understand why anyone takes Yang seriously. Or, for that matter, Yahoo while Yang remains at the firm in any capacity.

Carol Bartz must be kicking herself for ever accepting Yang's invitation to his home to discuss taking the CEO job at Yahoo. Before then, she was a widely-respected leader due to her phenomenal accomplishments at AutoDesk.

Now, she's criticized for her Yahoo tenure and, I think, misunderstood. In my opinion, she shares company with Lou Gerstner, Art Ryan and, to some extent, John Thain. All had some accomplishment at a firm which they headed, although Ryan didn't really do anything at Chase, but sort of seat-warmed the CEO job.

Gerstner moved from RJR Nabisco to IBM, Ryan to Prudential, then in the throes of litigation, and Thain from Goldman to the NYSE to Merrill Lynch. In each case, I believed that they couldn't really lose. If any of them succeeded in turning around the mess they inherited, they'd become even more wealthy, and receive credit for their work. If they failed, many would view the situation as too far gone for rescue.

I think Gerstner did that at IBM, and Thain at the NYSE. Ryan didn't tank Prudential, but I wouldn't say he worked miracles. But Thain at Merrill and Bartz at Yahoo clearly weren't able to succeed. Thain exhibited some bizarre behavior. Remember the extravagant office redecoration? And then there were the conflicting stories regarding year-end bonuses paid out amidst the firm's near-collapse.

Perhaps Bartz' reputation will be regained if and, as I expect, when, Yahoo slides further in valuation. So long as Yang remains a part of the firm's grappling with its future, it's almost certain that shareholders will see Bartz in a different light.

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