Yahoo Names the Fateful Day as Icahn Rumbles in the Wings

05 June 2008

SUNNYVALE, California: Yahoo yesterday named the day on which its destiny will hang – the firm's annual meeting, to be held on Friday August 1. The showdown is likely to resemble the gunfight at the OK Corral, with corporate corpses littering the Fairmont Hotel ballroom in San Jose.

Twirling his Colt 45 will be feared activist shareholder Carl Icahn, accompanied by compadre, the Texan takeover-tycoon, T Boone Pickens.

Lined-up at the other end of the deserted tumbleweed-strewn street will be Yahoo's Yang Gang, led by founder/ceo Jerry.

And when the dust has settled, only ten men will walk away. Which ten will be decided by a shareholders' vote on Icahn's motion to remove Yang and every other member of the web portal's ten-strong board of directors.

Meantime, a war of words is in progress. Using an interview with the Wall Street Journal as target practice, Icahn took aim at Yang over the breakdown in talks over Microsoft's merger offer a month ago, then valued at about $47.5 billion (€30.74bn; £24,17bn).

In particular, he referred to Yang's alleged aggressive steps to block a deal with the software colossus, including the adoption of a costly pay plan to retain employees who quit as a result of the takeover. This, Icahn claimed, led to a breakdown in talks with Microsoft.

"It's no longer a mystery to me why Microsoft's offer isn't around," Icahn reportedly told the Journal. "How can Yahoo keep saying they're willing to negotiate and sell the company on the one hand, while at the same time they're completely sabotaging the process without telling anyone?"

But, hands aloft in pious indignation, Yahoo denies such skulduggery. Claiming it had held extensive talks with Microsoft over the last several months, culminating in the latter's retreat, a company statement avers: "Mr. Icahn's assertions ignore this clear factual record."

The statement continued: "Yahoo's board of directors, including Jerry Yang, has been crystal clear that it would consider any proposal by Microsoft that was in the best interests of its shareholders."

Said Microsoft: "No comment."

The last word, as ever, lies with the WSJ's open-minded and impartial new proprietor. Speaking last week at a digital conference in Southern California, Rupert Murdoch opined that Icahn's blusterings were "not serious."

"Look, he wants to make himself a few hundred million dollars," said the multi billionaire. "For Microsoft it is helpful noise. If I were Yahoo, I wouldn't worry about it."

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff