It's a staggering figure: $20 billion. Read that again: $20 billion. As Yahoo dipped below $20 a share, now at $19.75 at this writing, the differential between Yahoo's market cap this morning, and the offer Microsoft made to acquire the company outright is about $20 billion.
And that's a devastating development for a board of directors, in press release after press release since this whole drama began, kept proclaiming that its primary mission was to maximize shareholder value. But rather than moving forward, this company has taken 20 billion steps backward.
That's not to say there hasn't been material action: a sweeping reorganization raised more eyebrows than value. CEO Jerry Yang consolidated even more power, and much of the day-to-day operations now fall under a single executive that I'm told from a number of managers commands no respect and offers little vision of what the company ought to do from here.
So many key executives have walked since this mess began that it's almost become a stealth layoff. Which could be a sneaky strategy since these folks walking out are many of the ones part of the old regime that helped Yahoo get into the mess it's in. And if they walk out the door on their own, they don't get severance. Stealth layoff.
Yahoo has also been on a federal filing binge, giving us a window into its turn-around strategy, its strange and wondrous negotiations with Microsoft (that Microsoft never really wanted to buy Yahoo outright is almost testing the intelligence of Yahoo's shareholders.) Its attacks on Carl Icahn are bordering on effective, but Icahn himself may become a sort of Barack Obama to the Yahoo constituency.
In other words, in the same way that Obama preaches the need for change, without offering too many specifics, Icahn can do the same for Yahoo shareholders who have to be seeing wave upon wave wipe away the company's market cap. Some major shareholders haven't said whether they'll support Icahn. But the mere specter that they're considering doing so should send a scary message to Yang and team that their days might be numbered.
Dipping below $20 a share today is the clearest sign yet that Yahoo's strategies and messages don't seem to be resonating. And worse, some shareholders don't think they ever will.
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