Yahoo! is one of the greatest companies in the world. Our group of Yahoo! shareholders believes strongly that the company could create more value for all shareholders if it took quick and decisive steps to unlock that value. The following points represent, after input/suggestions/comments from all members in our syndicate, our finalized "Plan B" for Yahoo! We hope you'll join us by supporting "Plan B" as business brought forward at the May annual meeting of shareholders. Please also support Eric Jackson as a candidate for election to the Yahoo! board of directors at that meeting.
Terry Semel should be Immediately Replaced as Yahoo!’s Chairman and CEO. Edit
We believe that Yahoo! requires a new Chairman and CEO and Terry Semel no longer deserves these key two jobs. During his tenure, Terry Semel has made the following strategic missteps: • Failing to buy Google in 2002. Mr. Semel claims that he could have done this in 2002 for $3B . It would have been a bargain, compared to Google’s current $144B market capitalization today. • Destruction of Yahoo! Shareholder Value in Past 2 Years. Yahoo!’s stock price is down 7% for the past 2 years, compared to Google’s 151% increase and NASDAQ’s 20% increase over that same time period. This decrease for Yahoo! still includes the 14% increase in its stock price since our “Plan B” campaign of shining a light on Yahoo!’s underperformance which began on January 7th, 2007. • Continued Loss of Share in Search. While Yahoo! has hastily pushed out the new Panama platform in the last month, partly in response to criticism from our stockholder group and other critics, there is no denying that it has lost critical momentum and share in the battle for search advertising dollars. In fact, according to numbers from Banc of America Analyst Brian Pitz, Yahoo! lost share faster than Microsoft in the last quarter and year vis-à-vis Google. Even with a better ad platform running, more and more users are turning away from Yahoo! for their search needs. • Costly creation of Yahoo! Media Group and Burbank Campus. This entire investment has been a write-off for Yahoo!’s shareholders. Lloyd Braun was hired to lead this group in November 15, 2004. The company announced it was setting up stakes in Burbank on January 15, 2005. Braun left Yahoo! on December 6, 2006. • Missing the Need to Overhaul the Overture Platform at a Critical Time in its Drive to Compete with Google. According to Fred Vogelstein’s Wired article last month: “When Yahoo decided it was going to buy Overture in 2002, Overture dominated search-related advertising; its revenue was two times Google's. By the time the deal was actually announced in 2003, the two companies were neck and neck. Two years later, Google's revenue was 2.5 times Overture's.” • Failing to buy YouTube in 2006. Google purchased this in late 2006 and Yahoo! has yet to define a credible video offereing. • Failing to buy MySpace in 2005. MySpace recently surpassed Yahoo! for total page views. • Outsized Compensation for Small Shareholder Return. Mr. Semel’s first 4 years’ total compensation was $258.29MM . In 2005, he received $56.8MM in compensation . According to the 2006 proxy, Mr. Semel had $235MM in unexercised stock options, for a total of $550MM in total compensation, to date. Bob Nardelli started as CEO of Home Depot on December 1, 2000, and collected approximately $300MM in compensation for his 6 year tenure with a $210MM severance package. Thus, his combined compensation for his time at Home Depot was $510MM. Terry Semel is already ahead of Mr. Nardelli, before mr. Semel receives any severance/retirement package. Last June, Yahoo!'s compensation committee set Mr. Semel's annual salary to $1 for the next 3 years. However, it included an annual grant of 1MM shares (which would amount to approximately $30MM at today's stock price) with further options that can be exercised above $31. A guaranteed $30MM a year is not the same as being paid $1. Terry Semel and his defenders will argue that Yahoo!’s stock price has gone up 227% since his start date of May 1, 2001 through today. However, if you properly analyze his tenure, there have been three distinct periods:
1. May 2001 – December 2002: Yahoo! drops 7% in value. 2. January 2003 – December 2004: Yahoo! grows by 355% in value. 3. January 2005 – Present: Yahoo! drops 14% in value.
There has only been one period in which Yahoo!’s valuation has increased under Terry Semel’s watch and we would argue that this had to do with a general recovery in the Internet Advertising market, which benefited Yahoo! and its two main rivals – Google and Microsoft – during this time. The rising tide lifted all boats/companies which were dependent on the ad market for the majorities of their revenues. As Yahoo! also had amassed enough cash before Mr. Semel’s arrival, it had the fortitude to go through the Internet Advertising drought which claimed the lives of many pre-Bubble competitors (e.g., Excite, Lycos, etc.). The only credible remaining search players post-Bubble were Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft and advertising dollars could only go to these three players after the general market recovery began to happen. Yahoo! benefited from this rising tide (especially in display ads), for a while.
Yahoo!’s market share has been flat and steadily eroding over the past 4 years, while Google’s has dramatically accelerated. Yahoo! had a 28.9% share in February 2003 (according to Neilsen NetRatings ), compared to 29.5% for Google. However, Yahoo!’s share had dropped to 19.5% as of December 2006, and Google’s had increased to 65.4% (according to Bank of America Equity Research). The total ad market has increased from $1.4B in 2002 to $15B annually today (and growing at 50% per annum) . Had Yahoo!, under Terry Semel, been able to grow its share to even 30% today, Yahoo! shareholders would have received an additional $1.6B in revenues last year – or 25% higher than their reported $6.4B in revenues, but still well below Google’s $10.6B in revenues last year.
The bottom line is that – in the most relevant and direct comparison to its arch-rival, Google – since Google’s IPO in August 2004 through today, Google’s stock price is up 336% versus Yahoo!’s stock price being up only 16%. Google has grown its shareholder value 21 times more efficiently than Yahoo! over this time period, when the Internet ad market has been booming. We don’t believe that any CEO should keep his/her job when your #1 competitor is 21 times as successful as you over an extended period of time. Conclusion: Yahoo!’s board needs to immediately remove Mr. Semel – who is 64 – and begin a search process to find a new Chairman and CEO. This Chairman and CEO search should examine all qualified internal and external candidates.
Terry Semel, Robert Kotick, Roy Bostock, Ron Burkle, Eric Hippeau, Arthur Kern, and Gary Wilson should be Immediately Replaced on Yahoo!’s Board of Directors. Edit
Terry Semel ultimately reports to Yahoo!’s board of directors. The board must be held accountable for the numerous missteps outlined above. Of the 10 directors, we believe 7 should resign or Yahoo! shareholders should withhold votes for them at Yahoo!’s 2007 annual meeting of shareholders. We are in favor of only Jerry Yang (a Yahoo! co-founder), Ed Kozel, and Vyomesh Joshi returning. The latter two recently purchased shares directly in Yahoo!, while the other Yahoo! directors have only exercised stock options of late.
Shutter the Yahoo! Media Group and campus in Los Angeles. Edit
The Yahoo! Media Group has been a failure. There are no meaningful outputs from the group to speak of which have had any positive shareholder value-creating impact. Yahoo! shareholders should not incur additional investments in this group and repatriate key employees back to Sunnyvale, while eliminating other positions.
Redirect the "mission" of Yahoo! from playing catch-up with the 900 pound gorilla (Google)and think outside the "new tech toy" box. Massively good journalism making Yahoo! the N.Y. Times of the Internet might be an idea (get some high-profile journalists to lead the effort). Print media is losing ground fast and Yahoo! could starting swimming downstream instead of struggling to battle ferocious currents of competition that require massive expenditures of $$ to compete and even if successful you would share a divided market rather than taking over the Lion's share of an underdeveloped market.
Make additional R&D investments in the Technology Group. Edit
"Plan B" is about accountability to Yahoo! shareholders. The last two years have not delivered the appropriate value to shareholders compared to Yahoo!'s competitors. Partly, this is due slowness to respond in the technical area of the business. While we continue to think that the company has some of the most talented engineers in the tech world, we believe that improvements need to be made within the Technology Group. Cost savings from shuttering Yahoo! Media Group and other internal efficiencies (see next point below) should be plowed back into R&D investment in the underlying Yahoo! Technology Group.
Reduce Overlapping Internal Divisions within the Company. Edit
The Peanut Butter Manifesto was one of the first internal recognitions that more efficiencies could be created within Yahoo! from streamlining the various groups. The del.icio.us group (coming from an external acquisition) is still a distinct group from the home-grown MyWeb. Flickr (another external acquisition) is still a distinct group from the original Yahoo! MyPhotos group. No justification can be made from keeping them as separate internal groups. This must be corrected immediately to improve the profitability of the organization. It would also help to clarify who, within Yahoo!, has distinct ownership and accountability for key deliverables – most notably as head of the Audience Group.
Institute a ‘Pay-for-Performance’ Plan for all Yahoo! Management. Edit
At the same time as the new CEO is hired, the Yahoo! board should introduce a ‘pay-for-performance’ plan for all Yahoo! management. Bonuses should be tied to preset goals for increases in revenues, cash flow, and EPS.
Step up the Pace of the $3B Stock Repurchase Plan Announced in October 2006. Edit
In October 2006, in conjunction with its disappointing Q3 earnings, Yahoo! announced that its board had authorized a $3B stock repurchase over the next 5 years. Yahoo!'s stock price bottomed out this same day at just under $23. The stock is up over 14% since we first announced our "Plan B" for shareholder value creation on January 7, 2007. We believe that there is considerable upside in the company's valuation – especially if the points in this plan are enacted. Therefore, we strongly wish to see evidence that the board of directors is accelerating the share repurchase now, rather than when the stock increases in value substantially further months down the road.
Begin a Modest Cash Dividend Immediately. Edit
Fast-growing companies like Yahoo! typically pay no dividend, in favor of spending all cash on internal growth purposes (e.g., R&D). However, examples of tech companies growing and paying a dividend include National Semi, TI, and HP. Yahoo! needs to use its $3B cash position wisely to effectively compete and succeed for the long-term. Yahoo! should introduce an immediate annual dividend of 5 cents a share, which would only amount to $40MM a year (therfore, not inhibiting the company's ability to compete effectively). More important than the cash to shareholders (which does increase value in and of itself), the dividend would be an additional discipline to Yahoo! management to spend its cash wisely. It would also symbolize management's confidence in the business, moving forward, that it will plan for and can sustain this dividend to shareholders.
In the most recent Yahoo! 10-Q filing with the SEC , the final Risk Factor facing the company cited is: “Anti-takeover provisions could make it more difficult for a third party to acquire us.” The filing goes on to detail how the board of directors can thwart a takeover of the company by diluting shares, if necessary. These anti-takeover provisions are not shareholder-friendly. They do not serve shareholders' interests, but management's. They should be swept aside immediately.
Next Steps: Edit
We have now communicated it to Yahoo!'s management and board for action and asked to present it at the May annual meeting of shareholders. We ask our current and new supporters to pledge support for Yahoo! Please also plan to attend the annual meeting. In the meantime, we will continue to build up our community and shareholdings.
It is the group's aim to amass a stake of 10% in the company, so that our concerns will be voiced as the largest group of shareholders in the company. Relational Investors was able to recently effect change at Home Depot with only a 1.6% stake in the company.
Eric Jackson is also running for election to the Yahoo! Board of Directors. He is running on the "Plan B" platform. Please support his candidacy at the annual meeting of shareholders and cast a "withhold" vote for the 7 directors mentioned in "Plan B."
Thank you for being part of this "Plan B" group, intent on using the power of the web and our collective wisdom through this wiki, to help one of the greatest companies in the world.