Yahoo Shareholder Meeting: What's Happening

Yahoo Shareholder Meeting
Yahoo Shareholder Meeting

Posts from today's Yahoo shareholder meeting.

2:10 pm EST: Jerry Yang stayed on message, reiterating the strategy, in broad brush strokes, that the company has been implementing since the end of last year.

"Yahoo is a great brand, well recognized around the world," he proclaimed. The company is focused on "driving relevance," good for both users and advertisers.

Yahoo, says Yang, "attracts a huge number of users...500 million users a month...Number 1 or 2" in every major category used to measure net influence and success.

He says Yahoo is unique as a platform, that "no other company... has this collection of assets," that he and his management team "remain very excited to transform" the company.

Like Bostock before him, and Sue Decker who is speaking now, Yang maintains this company is on track to meet the goals set out at the end of last year. These were the same goals so many on the Street said were too ambitious, too optimistic, not realistic. And yet, the company in its most recent report, met its targets. That might be the company's view, but its earnings per share still came in lighter than consensus expectations.

Nonetheless, the company maintains it is on track, and meeting internal metrics. Yang says Yahoo continues to invest, and big, in new technologies and initiatives.

Nothing about Microsoft. No bitterness: all business, all strategy.

Decker is now speaking, expanding on user experience, the transition to mobile and new display advertising algorithms that will go into effect later this year.

Lots of optimism. But with a stock now below $20 a share again. It doesn't appear any of this is wowing investors. At least not yet.

1:52 pm EST: As soon as Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock took the microphone at today's shareholder meeting, he immediately went on the offensive, responding to a shareholder who requested that Yahoo execs fill out timesheets to show just how much they're actually working, he said he'd be more than happy to.

He also said, "A great deal of misinformation, a great deal of misunderstanding" about the company, its strategy and its executives.

He said, there's been "tremendous forward progress by the company since the middle of '07" when Jerry Yang succeeded Terry Semel as the company's CEO.

On negotiations with Microsoft, he said, "The board controlled the process in dealing with Microsoft from the beginning... We called the shots... Our number one priority was maximizing shareholder value."

On the offer confusion over what Microsoft was offering: "Microsoft's initial $31 bid was the only written proposal ever received by the company...

"In an offhand comment, (Microsoft said to one of our executives), 'There may be a few more dollars on the table. It was never explicitly communicated to the board, and never communicated in writing." On the partnership with Google: "After Microsoft withdrew the offer, and only after they withdrew the offer, we entered into a deal with Google."

On Carl Icahn, "He's a smart guy, and despite some of the things written about him...a good guy."

"Needless to say, the last six months have been full of twists and turns," but Bostock wants shareholders to focus on what he calls an ambitious plan and "one hell of a performance by this management team" especially in light of Yahoo's decision not to change guidance for the remainder of 2008.

"It is a hell of a burden to deal with these kinds of offers and deal with them in an effective way," but that the board and management team has done an outstanding job.

Now it's time for Jerry Yang to take the mike.

1:20 pm EST: Far fewer people showed up to the Yahoo shareholder meeting than were expected.

In the Yahoo meeting which started promptly at 1 pm EDT, and I'm struck by the big party the company is hosting.

And very few showed up.

Mounds of food untouched by the crowd that wasn't.
Mounds of food untouched by the crowd that wasn't.

This is inside the San Jose Fairmont's cavernous Imperial Ballroom. And I'm struck at the number of empty chairs here. The room holds 1,000 people. There might be 200 chairs taken. There are mountains of pastries outside the door. Most of it untouched.

It's bordering on shocking. After all that was made of the bitterness and disappointment over Yahoo's botched deal with Microsoft. And a share price that has gone largely nowhere.

As you can see from the image, a LOT of empty chairs. And if shareholders are that bitter, they're keeping it to themselves.

Empty seats at Yahoo shareholder meeting.
Empty seats at Yahoo shareholder meeting.

We'll see what happens when the question and answer period begins, but if attendance is any indication, it looks like the company's shareholders are showing a surprising level of apathy. Whether they're in support of the current board, or not. More soon.

Questions? Comments?