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Ousted Yahoo chief criticizes the board

LOS ANGELES — The drama following the ouster of Yahoo chief Carol Bartz may have racked up enough public insults, swearing and large cash prizes to qualify for a reality TV show. • Two days after her over-the-phone firing by Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock, Bartz went public with her criticisms of Bostock and his board, reportedly calling them a bunch of "doofuses" and using other terms outside the scope of a family newspaper. • But Bartz, who may receive as much as $10 million in a severance, was not the only one flinging barbs. Shortly after purchasing a 5.2 percent stake in Yahoo, activist investor Daniel Loeb of the Third Point hedge fund sent a note to the company's board, calling not only for Bostock's prompt resignation, but also sweeping changes to the board.

Not that Loeb was taking Bartz's side. The investor also said in his note that hiring her in 2009 was one of the board's many serious misjudgments.

"Although we are pleased that the board has terminated Ms. Bartz's employment," Loeb said, "we fail to understand why this decision was so long in coming, given her abysmal performance over the last 21/2 years."

There was no official word on who would be picked as the new chief executive, but rumors centered on Ross Levinsohn, currently Yahoo's corporate vice president for the Americas region and a longtime media executive formerly with Fox Interactive Media.

"He is the kind of person with extensive experience in both media and Internet offerings that would seem to make for a good start to the CEO conversation," said Scott Kessler, a Standard & Poor's analyst.

In a recent interview, when asked about where Yahoo may have lost its way, Levinsohn told Reuters, "I think Yahoo has been doing so many things well for so long and frankly got a little trapped in — I think — 'Oh, what is Yahoo?' People don't ask Google, 'What is Google?'

"We have a lot of businesses that make a lot of money, too," he added. "The important thing is to figure out how they all work together."

"This has turned into a circus," said Kessler of the aftermath of Bartz's firing. "It's unfortunate because Yahoo in many respects was a great company. You have a lot of hardworking people there trying to do good work, and, at the least, this cannot be helpful for morale there."

Loeb — who is known for his public letters criticizing the performance of companies in which he invests — named several Yahoo board members who he believed should step aside. He singled out Arthur Kern, a director since 1996, and Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of the printer business at Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo board member since 2005.

Bartz told Fortune magazine she plans to remain a director on Yahoo's board — a possibility the company quickly moved to quash.

"Ms. Bartz is obligated to resign from the board, and we expect her to do so," said Charles Sipkins, a spokesman for Yahoo's board.

Ousted Yahoo chief criticizes the board 09/09/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 9, 2011 10:47pm]
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