Amid growing pressure on the Internet pioneer to sell assets in Asia, Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) announced that co-founder and director Jerry Yang has resigned to ‘pursue interests outside of Yahoo!’ Yang, 43 launched Yahoo! with fellow Stanford University doctoral student David Filo in 1995 and took the company public in 1996. The company was valued at over $100 billion during its heyday, but in recent years has declined to $20 billion in market value with a share price that hovers around $15.The announcement by Yahoo! comes at a time when the new CEO Scott Thompson may be re-visiting the deals to unlock shareholder value that just can’t get done. Two big deals that have stalled are the attempt to sell Yahoo! shares in Asian- internet sensation Alibaba (HKG:1688) and Yahoo! Japan Co. which may bring as much as $10 billion to Yahoo! and its shareholders. MarketWatch commented on Yahoo’s previous deal failures including the blockbuster offer in 2008 from Microsoft of $45 billion or $32 per share to acquire 100 percent of Yahoo! that was rejected by Yang.
Can We Make A Deal, Now?
The Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) offer that was spurned by Yahoo! marked a turning point between shareholders and board members who backed Yang’s demand that Microsoft pay $36 per share or more. Now Yahoo! fetches $15 per share and traded down 8 percent in 2011 while other internet properties like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) continued to hold value while expanding its reach. Yahoo’s new CEO Scott Thompson, formerly of eBay’s (NASDAQ:EBAY) PayPal division, has his work cut-out for himself. Critics have complained over the years that Yang injected unnecessary drama into dealing with Microsoft and Alibaba and the attempt to team-up with Google after failing to sell-out to Microsoft. The Google partnership was ill-fated from the start and ultimately doomed to regulatory purgatory and was never consummated.
A Need For Top-Down Leadership
The appointment of Thompson as CEO follows on the termination of former CEO Carol Bartz who was removed in September 2011 after serving for nearly three years as chief executive. The inability to get deals done appears endemic to Yahoo! leadership and the board. Now with Yang headed for greener pastures and Thompson installed with what looks like a ‘clean slate’ the focus will soon be on what next best steps the company takes to monetize its un-needed or under-utilized assets. Thompson presided over respectable growth at PayPal and knows and understands the Internet space very well. The key will be for him to separate himself from the past and start to make headway toward finally ‘doing a deal’ in the near term. Despite comments from some Yahoo! sources to the contrary, a deal done sooner rather than later will help to calm the nerves of shareholders who have remained patient throughout the multi-year disappointment that Yahoo! has become.
Shareholder Value Is In The Wallet Of The Beholder
It’s tough to fully understand why Yahoo! turned down an ‘offer in the hand’ from Microsoft in 2008. Of course, none of us could have known the depth of the recession or the prolonged recovery that we’ve endured thus far. But, it’s clear that Yahoo’s plans absent Microsoft or Google have not fared very well and a lot of shareholders remain angry that the turn of events that have brought the company to this point seems to be unfolding in slow-motion. While ‘better late than never’ may be a more comforting way to reflect on Yang’s departure, it may be best to simply look forward.
Look Forward to 2012 With A New IRA
Side Note: Yang still owns nearly 47 million shares, or 4 percent of the company valued at more than $ 700 million according to Bloomberg.com