06 Nov 2008

Jerry Yang’s Public Yahoo Neutering

Sometimes news breaks and I don’t even have words for the stupidity. And sometimes the news is so ridiculous that I shake my head for the people involved. And then sometimes news breaks on mornings when I didn’t have time to stop for coffee and I wonder if I really read what I thought I read.

Today would be one of those days. On all accounts.

I got the news from TechCrunch this morning that Jerry Yang, CEO of Yahoo, actually sat up there on stage at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco and publicly announced that Yahoo is ready to sell. He told moderator John Battelle, in front of the whole world, that even though Microsoft has assured them they are no longer interested in taking them to the prom, Yahoo’s still hoping they’ll change their mind.

Yang said:

“To this day, I have to say that the best thing for Microsoft to do is to buy Yahoo. I don’t think   that is a bad idea at all at the right price, whatever the price is, we are willing to sell the  company. We were ready to negotiate, we wanted to negotiate a deal, and we felt that we weren’t that far apart. But at the end of the day, they withdrew and they since have been very clear about not wanting to buy the company.”

Jerry, are you listening? You’re a moron.  And in case you’re not totally convinced of that, check your stock price later.

Jerry Yang neutered Yahoo on stage yesterday. I don’t care how close Yahoo and Microsoft once were in price, that time has passed. And with Jerry publicly stating on stage that Yahoo bought the prom dress even though Microsoft never asked them to the big dance (and doesn’t intend to), you don’t exactly inspire confidence or set yourself up for more promising negotiations. Instead, what you did was tell  Microsoft that you’re desperate. You’re a wounded puppy looking for someone to come and fix you. Or at least put you out of your misery. And even if Microsoft decides they’ll pick up a now totally pathetic Yahoo, you can bet it’s going to be for a much, much lower price.  Way to screw over the company you’re supposed to be looking out for, Jerry.

Jerry tried to convince Battelle that he only wants what’s best for Yahoo, but that’s a bunch of crap. That’s clear by his public neutering of the company. By the fact that he turned down Microsoft’s very fair offer of $31 a share only to pull this a few months later.

If Jerry really cared about Yahoo he’d take his things and get the heck out of the way. Yahoo needs a leader. Someone to come in with hope and energy and plans. As TechCrunch said, they need their Barack Obama. Jerry Yang can’t provide them with that. He’s ineffective, he’s beaten down, he’s stopping change from happening. Yahoo will go nowhere with Jerry still at the helm. Someone who told John Battelle that he’s “indifferent” about Microsoft potentially buying his company. You’re indifferent? The entire search community has been buzzing about it since February and you don’t care one way or another? Are you serious?

Then, when asked what his vision for Yahoo was, Jerry responded that “Yahoo is a consumer brand that allows people to do what they want on the Internet”.  That’s not a vision. That’s your About snippet.

It’s frustrating because I know that there’s still life left in Yahoo. You can see the glimmers when you look at Search Monkey and BOSS. But Yahoo won’t go anywhere until major management changes are made. And I’m not talking about the executives who have been leaving in droves.

Jerry, you’re dead inside. Don’t take Yahoo down with you. Step down now before Carl Icahnn comes after you with a lead pipe.

Do I want Microsoft to scoop up Yahoo? I don’t think it’s ideal, no. I think if and when it happens it’ll be a big loss for the search community who could have had three great engines to turn to.  But if Microsoft buying Yahoo means we can stop watching Jerry fudge it up, then maybe I’d be okay with that after all.


  1. Joe Hall November 6, 2008 at 10:01 AM

    Honestly, I don’t think this that big of a deal. Every good negotiator goes into negotiations will a very good understanding of the person on the other side of the table. I am willing to bet that Microsoft, has some of damn good negotiators.

    I think that if anything Yang might look weak to investors, but last time I check Yahoo stock price has been rising since Tuesday.

  2. Lisa Barone November 6, 2008 at 1:29 PM

    How do you negotiate effectively for your side when you’ve already written your suitor a love letter saying it’s in your best interest for them to buy you and save you from yourself?

    It’s like going to buy a car after the one you currently own just broke down and starting smoking right in front of the dealer. Good luck.

    I think Yang’s very public statement puts Yahoo in a bit of a pickle. He let the company deteriorate and now he’s going to sell it off for way less than he wouldn’t have gotten months ago.

  3. Eric Itzkowitz November 6, 2008 at 2:46 PM

    @Lisa – I do enjoy your no-holds barred, brutally honest approach to blogging. I find it rather enjoying, and it’s nice to see people being straight up with their feelings. Good job!

    HOWEVER, I find it bewildering when people with no where near the business acumen or success of Jerry Yang have the “balls” to call he–the man who started one of the most successful search empires in the history of the world–a moron.

    Has his decision making been less than shinning? Yes. If you are saying that he’s been acting like a moron of late, OK I get it.

    Seriously, do you honestly believe that he and those surrounding him would allow such comments to be made ad hoc? Hell no! Whatever was said, was likely a very well-crafted ploy.

    Again, just my 2¢.

  4. Eric Itzkowitz November 6, 2008 at 2:54 PM

    p.s. I forgot to mention that I dig the picture of the Boxer. I have sort of a “reverse brindle” boxer. He’s a wheat color with a very slight brindle, sort of like a tiger.

  5. Julian November 6, 2008 at 5:29 PM

    Different CEOs are good for companies at different times. The CEO that is good at the start-up phase is often no good at the divestiture stage; the CEO that is good in the ramping up times is often not good at the cost cutting times; the CEO that is good at acquiring companies is often not good at selling companies; etc.

    I don’t see how appearing weak can be a useful ploy in any situation, there is no ploy at work here.

    I totally agree that Yang’s fit is wrong for Yahoo! in present times. It is embarrassing to watch.

  6. Eric Itzkowitz November 6, 2008 at 6:06 PM

    @Julian – I agree with you on the different CEO types. He’s likely not even the right CEO for the present time. However, Jerry Yang is no moron, not even close. That’s what I had a qualm with.

  7. Lisa Barone November 6, 2008 at 7:25 PM

    Eric: Thanks for the comment. I will completely give Jerry Yang credit for starting an incredibly successful search engine back in the day. But the industry has moved on. Is he a smart guy? Probably. However he’s shown that he’s now ineffective running Yahoo at its current state. He needs to step down.

    And c’mon, you don’t need any great business acumen to know that when you’re trying to get someone to be interested in you, you play a little hard to get to make them feel like they need you more than you need them. It’s Dating 101! 😉

    Julian: Amen!

  8. Patricia Skinner November 8, 2008 at 8:08 PM

    I agree with Lisa Eric. You know there are different types of intelligence. I have known people who were brilliant technically, but when it came to economics or social skills they were totally at a loss. Jerry Yang, it strikes me, falls into this category. They way he notified his workforce that 10 percent were for the chop a few weeks back is just another case in point.

    As I said, I agree with Lisa. Yahoo needs a change.

  9. Eric Itzkowitz November 10, 2008 at 10:01 AM

    @Patricia – If you read my original reply you will clearly see that I was not disagreeing with Lisa on anything other than her calling Jerry Yang a moron.

  10. Gerry Burch November 12, 2008 at 4:51 PM


  11. Joe Hall November 17, 2008 at 7:56 PM

    Wow, Lisa, looks like you were right on this one!


  12. Bob Weber November 19, 2008 at 9:23 AM

    Either you were right, or you hurt Jerry’s feelings and he just couldn’t go on.

  13. Lisa Barone November 19, 2008 at 9:37 AM

    Bob: [giggles] I think it was totally the latter. I take complete credit for making Jerry Yang resign. Yahoo can thank me by sending me cupcakes. Or maybe buying my apartment for me. Their call.

    And nice to see you commenting on the new blog, Bob!

  14. Bob Weber November 19, 2008 at 11:13 AM

    They better thank you – you are now a dangerous person. Just remember, with great power comes great responsibility…

    I’ve been reading for a while, just took me this long to come up with something witty to say. Great stuff as always.

  15. Looking Back on 2008 December 31, 2008 at 10:59 AM

    […] whole SMX Advanced was too black hat thing, the fake avatar thing, the Ask is dead to me thing, the Jerry Yang is a flippin’ moron thing and probably lots of other things that I’ve suppressed.  I know that not everyone thinks […]

Leave a Reply