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Yahoo! Insiders Cash Out: Activist

Stocks in this article: YHOO MSFT

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Does a leopard change its spots? Not at Yahoo! (YHOO) Every director and officer there seems to have a congenital affliction that is forcing them to withdraw as much compensation as they can from the shareholders.

The company's always had a laissez-faire approach to compensation. A techie friend from the Valley explained it to me this way: "Hey, it's tech. It's how we've always done it. We have a war for talent out here. Where we would be as a company if we didn't pay so much?"

If we were talking about a vertical stock price, then I'd buy that. But for Yahoo!'s shareholders, money is draining out of Yahoo! at a faster pace in the face of dismal performance in the past four years than compared to when the company's stock was going up. And the directors who are supposedly minding the store on behalf of the shareholders have gotten in on the money grab themselves.

It doesn't matter that the stock is trading at 63% less than the $40 a share Yahoo!'s board proudly proclaimed it was worth when Microsoft (MSFT) wanted to buy the company last year.

These insiders aren't too proud to cash out their "found money" stock holdings for whatever they can get in the open market. If I was still a Yahoo! shareholder, I would be alarmed. As a casual observer, I'm simply galled at this pigs-at-the-trough behavior.

A review of the Yahoo! insider transactions for the past two years reveals the following (and keep in mind that Yahoo!'s stock price has dropped 38% over this period vs. -21% for the Nasdaq):

  • Insiders have bought $67 million in Yahoo! stock in the past two years. However, of this amount, the vast majority was bought by Carl Icahn for his hedge fund, which he has already sold (and more -- $189 million) in the last two weeks. A small amount of stock was purchased by Michael Murray, Yahoo!'s chief accounting officer, who announced last week that he's leaving the company. Not including Icahn's and Murray's stock purchases, Yahoo! insiders have collectively bought only $103,700 in stock in the past two years.
  • Over the same period, Yahoo! insiders have cashed out $233 million in stock.
  • In those two years, Yahoo! insiders have also seen zero strike price options vest which they have yet to sell in the open market but which have a current market value of another $58 million.
  • Therefore, for every dollar of stock purchased by a Yahoo! insider in the last year, he sold stock or received options worth $2,159.

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