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.