The D: All Things Digital conference always attracts the elite of the tech world and this year is no exception, with a lineup that includes Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Jerry Yang, Tom Glocer, Barry Diller, Jeffrey Bewkes, and Mark Zuckerberg, among others.
Seems that Fox survived the 14-week writers strike, and arguably thrived if you stack its prime-time ratings up against major broadcast networks. It has finished the season as the undisputed ratings leader for the first time, thanks to a combination of the Super Bowl and that little talent show known as “American Idol.”
With all the interest in Yahoo Inc these days, we took the opportunity to ask Nokia CFO Rick Simonson at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit if the world’s largest mobile phone maker would be interested in buying Yahoo. He laughed and joked that of all the questions we could have asked him, this was one he didn’t see coming. Then he goes on to say:
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn fired a salvo at Yahoo on Thursday morning, threatening a proxy fight unless Yahoo gets Microsoft back to the negotiating table.******In a letter to Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock he said Yahoo’s board had acted “irrationally” in turning away an offer that amounted to a 72 percent premium and warned Yahoo not to announce any “strategic alternatives” (such as a deal with AOL or Google) without a shareholder vote.***
I am perplexed by the board’s actions. It is irresponsible to hide behind management’s more than overly optimistic financial forecasts. It is unconscionable that you have not allowed your shareholders to choose to accept an offer that represented a 72% premium over Yahoo’s closing price of $19.18 on the day before the initial Microsoft offer. I and many of your shareholders strongly believe that a combination between Yahoo and Microsoft would form a dynamic company and more importantly would be a force strong enough to compete with Google on the Internet.
Somebody’s knocking on Yahoo’s door this week and it isn’t Steve Ballmer, yet. We wondered whether someone was building a position that helped keep Yahoo shares aloft since Microsoft pulled back from deal talks about a week and a half ago.
It turns out that activist shareholder par excellence Carl Icahn has accumulated about 50 million shares in that time and will likely decide today whether to launch a proxy contest, before Yahoo’s deadline for board nominations expires on Thursday.
What may sway his decision is a sign from Microsoft that it is willing to come back to the table after Yahoo rebuffed a sweetened $47.5 billion offer.
According to the Wall Street Journal, some other shareholder activists may be spoiling for a fight, including Firebrand Partners’ Scott Galloway, whose powers of persuasion won him a board seat at the New York Times earlier this year.
While all of this may not be good news for Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, the action could well buoy shares in the meantime, at least until he reaches his own conclusions on how to proceed.