February 7, 2023

DealBook: Yahoo Co-founder Jerry Yang Resigns From Board

Yahoo announced on Tuesday that Jerry Yang, a co-founder and board member, had stepped down from the board effective immediately. He has also resigned from the boards of Yahoo Japan and the Alibaba Group.

Yahoo, which recently appointed a new chief executive, did not fully explain Mr. Yang’s abrupt departure, but the board has wrestled with several issues in recent months, including a possible sale of its Asian assets and the company’s strategic direction. In a letter to Yahoo’s chairman, Roy Bostock, disclosed on Tuesday, Mr. Yang wrote: “The time has come for me to pursue other interests outside of Yahoo.” He also expressed his confidence in the new chief, Scott Thompson, and the rest of the management team.

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Shares of Yahoo jumped more than 4 percent in after-hours trading to more than $16 a share, immediately following the announcement.

“Jerry Yang is a visionary and a pioneer, who has contributed enormously to Yahoo! during his many years of service,” Mr. Bostock, said in a statement. “And while I and the entire Board respect his decision, we will miss his remarkable perspective, vision and wise counsel.”

Mr. Yang, who co-founded the Internet company in 1995 with David Filo, has been a polarizing figure in Silicon Valley — and in Yahoo’s board room. During his brief tenure as its chief executive, from 2007 to 2009, he spurned a takeover offer from Microsoft worth $47.5 billion. Since that bid, made in 2008, Yahoo’s stock has tumbled as it struggled to innovate against competitors like Google and Facebook. The company is now worth $19.1 billion, based on Tuesday’s closing price.

TPG Capital is exploring working with Jerry Yang, Yahoo's co-founder, on making a minority investment in the company.Daniel Barry/European Pressphoto Agency Jerry Yang

It has been a tumultuous four months since Yahoo ousted Carol Bartz, its former chief executive, in September.

Since then, the company has muddled through a lengthy review of its strategic options and its broader identity. Yahoo, which still attracts significant traffic on the Web, was approached by a hodge-podge of potential suitors interested in buying parts or all of the company. Late last year, separate investment teams led by private equity firms Silver Lake and TPG Capital made offers to acquire minority stakes in Yahoo.

Meanwhile, the company’s Asian partners — the Alibaba Group and Softbank — have also offered to buy back their Asian assets from the company, namely its sizable stakes in Yahoo Japan and Alibaba. In recent weeks, the board has pressed ahead with negotiations with Alibaba and Softbank, appearing to favor a near-term resolution of its Asian assets.

Throughout the process, Mr. Yang has been an enigmatic figure.

The founder, who has served on Yahoo’s board since its inception,
played a heavy hand in discussions with potential investors, according to people close to the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because talks are private. At times, Mr. Yang’s opinions seemed to diverge from the board’s consensus, these people said, creating a tense — and occasionally confusing — backdrop for negotiations.

Daniel S. Loeb of Third PointPhil McCarten/ReutersDaniel S. Loeb of Third Point

Mr. Yang, along with other board members, has also faced mounting pressure from activist investors, like Daniel S. Loeb, the head of the hedge fund Third Point, who has loudly called for the dismissal of both Mr. Yang and Mr. Bostock. Earlier this month, Mr. Loeb traveled to Silicon Valley, to interview board candidates in preparation for a possible proxy fight. He has until March 25 to file a competing slate of directors.

With a proxy war looming, Yahoo’s board has tried to strengthen its ranks. On Jan. 4, the company appointed Mr. Thompson, a former PayPal president, to the chief executive role. The board has also discussed which members could potentially step down to make room for new directors that might be more palatable to investors, these people said.

Yahoo declined to comment for this article.

Mr. Yang currently serves as a board member of Cisco Systems and is a trustee of his alma mater, Stanford University.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=bf14368cb9ffa91272d9a9fb419f9bf4

DealBook: Buffett Eager to Move On After Sokol Affair

Warren Buffett, second from right, sits with his children, from left, Howard, Susie and Peter at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting in Omaha, Neb.Daniel Acker/Bloomberg NewsWarren E. Buffett, second from right, sits with his children, from left, Howard, Susie and Peter at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting in Omaha, Neb.

OMAHA — At the annual gathering of Berkshire Hathaway’s investors here this weekend,
Warren E. Buffett made it clear that, as far as he is concerned, it’s back to business as usual. But a former top manager for him,
David L. Sokol, may make that a difficult goal to accomplish.

Mr. Buffett said at a news conference on Sunday that while he viewed the controversy caused by Mr. Sokol’s abrupt departure a month ago as sad, he saw little reason to dwell on the matter for very long.

“I’ve got no strong feelings about it, except that it’s a very sad situation,” he said.

He said he planned no major changes to Berkshire’s management practices, which largely leave the executives of the company’s subsidiaries to operate as they please. With more than 260,000 employees working for him around the world, something can and will inevitably go wrong, Mr. Buffett said.

His longtime investing partner, Berkshire’s vice chairman, Charles Munger, addressed the issue more bluntly. “We’ve had a close brush with scandal two times in 50 years,” he said Sunday. “We’re not going to devote a lot of time to this.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Sokol appears ready to keep the issue alive and wage a fight against Berkshire and his onetime boss. In a statement issued after Berkshire’s annual meeting, Mr. Sokol’s lawyer insisted that Mr. Buffett was “transparently scapegoating” his client, and that Mr. Sokol had not violated company policy with those trades.

Mr. Buffett already used the annual meeting on Saturday, attended by tens of thousands of ardent investors from around the world, to speak at length about what he knew of Mr. Sokol’s stock purchases in a chemical maker that he later recommended to Mr. Buffett as a potential acquisition.

Berkshire announced in March that it would buy the chemical producer, Lubrizol, for $9 billion. The deal produced a $3 million paper profit for Mr. Sokol.

Mr. Buffett said Saturday that Mr. Sokol’s actions were “inexplicable and inexcusable,” though he declined to personally attack him. Mr. Buffett said that Mr. Sokol had violated company trading policy. In his statement, Mr. Sokol’s lawyer defiantly denied that claim, saying, “At no time did Mr. Sokol violate the law or any Berkshire policy.”

Mr. Buffett sought to parry those assertions on Sunday, arguing that he has been forthright in disclosing the relevant details of the matter. He said that he did not know of any other details relevant to an investigation, and that he was cooperating with regulators in their inquiries.

“The facts are the facts,” he said. “His lawyer wasn’t there. I know what happened.”

Since Berkshire disclosed Mr. Sokol’s resignation and its circumstances, the controversy has threatened to mar Mr. Buffett’s lustrous reputation among investors. But Mr. Buffett said he did not expect the affair to cause permanent damage.

The pressure on Mr. Sokol is likely to grow. The Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into his trades, according to people briefed on the matter, using in part information submitted by Berkshire. Mr. Buffett said on Saturday that the data his company had turned over was “pretty damning.”

Mr. Buffett spoke at greater length Sunday about more traditional topics of discussion for Berkshire meetings.

Asked by reporters from various countries — including Germany, Brazil and South Korea — about whether he would be interested in acquiring companies in those areas, he responded yes to all of them.

Asked again about a potential successor to him, Mr. Buffett said only that even the worst of the unnamed candidates would be “very, very good.”

Shareholders appeared to side largely with Mr. Buffett. At Berkshire’s meeting on Saturday, most seemed more concerned with potential investments and successors than with the Sokol matter.

“I trust Buffett and the board,” Mary Murphy, from Omaha, said on Sunday. “He seemed like he was being honest and saying what he knew.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=a6cda4ae830aa848bdebd5b5a8fd182d