In an announcement that hedge fund Third Point has acquired a 5.15% stake in Yahoo!, Dan Loeb, the investment shop's chief, launched an attack on the company's board for hiring CEO Carol Bartz and ditching the Microsoft (MSFT) takeover deal, according to several reports Thursday.
Yahoo! chairman Roy Bostock fired Bartz late Tuesday by phone and named CFO Tim Morse as the interim replacement. The move sent two clear signals. One, Yahoo! is not gaining traction on Bartz's rejuvenation plan, and two, without a star replacement candidate, the company falls into limbo.
Third Point called for the resignation of four board members including Bostock and proposed to offer a slate of replacement candidates to take the vacated positions. Beyond a board shakeup, Third Point didn't offer much of a clue as to the strategy it saw for the stunted `Net giant.Yahoo! has had a long fall from its Internet portal glory days when it was a central hub for Web mail and online news and entertainment. The fall has been particularly steep under Bartz, who failed to attach Yahoo!'s business to growth trends in social media and mobile. To some on Wall Street, Yahoo! might be better off if it were broken into choice parts like the Alibaba unit in China and Yahoo Japan, which could be sold to help recoup some value. Absent a sale to a deep-pocketed player like Microsoft, analysts and investors see a breakup as part of a plan that would eventually combine Yahoo.com with rival AOL (AOL). Notably, investor provocateur Carl Icahn launched his own proxy fight with Yahoo! in 2008 and was unsuccessful in convincing the company to take Microsoft's $31-a-share buyout offer. Yahoo! shares surged 3% to $14 Thursday on news of the shareholder activism. --Written by Scott Moritz in New York.
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