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Yahoo brass got an earful from critical shareholders but remained all business at the Web giant’s annual meeting, which turned out to be less explosive than anticipated.
Last month, Yahoo stuck a deal with Carl Icahn, giving the activist shareholder a seat on the board. That cease-fire agreement took much of the starch out of Friday’s shareholders meeting, and Icahn didn’t attend. However, his shadow — along with those of Microsoft and Google — hung over the hotel ballroom.
Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock said the company is looking forward to having Icahn and two of his confidants on the board by the middle of the month. “Carl is a smart guy,” he said.
Bostock also defended Yahoo’s handling of the sale talks with Microsoft, ensuring investors the board had always controlled the process and focused on shareholder value.
“There was never a compelling deal proposal put on the table” at the right price, Bostock said, lauding Yahoo for keeping the company’s financials on track with 2008 guidance despite the distractions.
Eric Jackson, a small but activist shareholder who last year asked then-CEO Terry Semel if he still had the fire in his belly to run Yahoo, again provided one of the most intense moments when he asked the whole board to resign.
He earned applause from the crowd when he accused the board of overpaying for executive compensation, overplaying its Microsoft hand and overstaying its welcome.
“It’s nice to see you again,” CEO Jerry Yang said to begin his reply.
Jackson later told reporters that he’d like to see Yang leave as CEO but possibly stay on the board. “There are too many people who have been here too long,” and progress has been too slow, he said.
All board members proposed by Yahoo were re-elected Friday, most with more than 85% support.
While several investors said they would have loved to see a sale to Microsoft, another one earned applause for criticizing the software giant as a bully. “My support is for this board,” he said.
President Sue Decker discussed the positive feedback Yahoo has received for new product innovations and argued that’s where management has focused its attention despite the recent distractions.
“My team, Jerry’s team … is really proud of what’s happened,” Decker said about such new tools as online buzz tracker Yahoo Buzz.
Yang suggested that Yahoo is “on the verge” of seeing some of the benefits from its “rewiring” of the past year.
The meeting, attended by an estimated 120 shareholders, lasted just more than two hours. (partialdiff)
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