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Yahoo! Insiders Cash Out: Activist

Some of Yahoo!'s top executives are cashing out at a fever pitch. Michael Murray, Yahoo!'s chief accountant, began selling over $500,000 in stock last August. Last week, he announced he would be leaving the company. Hilary Schneider, Yahoo!'s EVP of North America, has sold $1.1 million in stock in the last five months.

The top executive stock seller is Yahoo!'s general counsel, Michael Callahan. Starting on Feb. 1t, 2008 -- the very day after Microsoft went public with its $31 offer to buy Yahoo! -- Callahan has been ringing the register on his stock holdings. In eight instances, or a pace of once every other month, Callahan has sold over $2 million in Yahoo! stock. He's also had options vest which he can sell at any time which have a current market value of another $1.7 million. Neither Schneider nor Callahan have bought any Yahoo! stock on the open market in the past two years.

When Terry Semel ran Yahoo!, high levels of compensation reigned. Semel himself cleared well over a half a billion dollars in total compensation for his five years of work at Yahoo! Carol Bartz has positioned herself as the anti-Terry: an operations-focused techie who isn't afraid to get in direct reports' faces. Yet, she shares Terry's fondness for getting paid.

At the beginning of 2009 on the first day Bartz walked in the door as CEO of Yahoo!, the board had loaded her up with stock options with a current market value of over $16 million which she could sell at any time. Within five months of her hiring, Bartz had already cashed out stock worth $2 million. I'm all for her getting the stock up (and according to her employment agreement , her compensation for getting the stock to $18 could be $40 million), but cashing out $2 million after five months of work seems too much too soon.

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