Icahn to Yahoo’s board: Shame on you

icahn2.jpg The heat is definitely on at Yahoo.

As though it weren’t under enough pressure, the board now has Carl Icahn warning them that they will be held personally liable for approving a controversial employee severance plan.

Oh, and shareholders suing the company now want a speedy trial related to failed merger talks between Yahoo and Microsoft, saying they would like to get to court before the company’s August 1 annual meeting.

Here’s the upshot of the fight over the severance plan: Shareholders suing the company argue that the board is free  to reorganize Yahoo’s work force as it sees fit without fear of triggering the severance benefits.

But the catch, they say, is that if Icahn’s board slate prevails, then Yahoo shareholders will be forced to fund the costly severance payouts to departing workers.

Yahoo denied assertions made in the lawsuit in a response filed with U.S. regulators.

Yahoo’s open embrace

decker.jpgThis is not an entry about Microsoft. It is an entry about Yahoo’s wagon-load of new ad partnerships announced today and what we learned about the future of online advertising exchanges. Basically, Yahoo executives told us they are trying to build a more open, more social Internet strategy vis a vis consumers and advertisers.

On the consumer side, expect Yahoo to rewire its sites, email and instant messaging so that users can manage information about themselves and their friends in a single place. 
At a lunch with reporters after speaking at the Advertising 2.0 conference, Yahoo President Sue Decker said those changes would become apparent late this year and early next year.
For advertisers, some of the new partnerships announced on Wednesday include important tie-ins to Yahoo’s Right Media Exchange, where online ad space can be bought and sold more efficiently, based on the laws of supply and demand in force everywhere else.
The ideas are part of a bigger shift away from expecting viewers to come to a given site, toward extending your services out to wherever your users may be.
“It feels like the industry is ripe right now for contributing to a larger ecosystem,” Decker said.
Right Media’s Mike Walrath put it diplomatically, suggesting the days of publishers or other parties who try to control their own ad pricing in an open market could be numbered.
“If your business is based on inefficiency, and as the market becomes more efficient … some models will strengthen,” he said.

Media agency Havas Digital is participating in one of the new deals, agreeing to build a proprietary ad trading platform based on Yahoo’s technology. Havas Digital CEO Don Epperson told us in an interview that Havas had been working with Yahoo on this for nearly 9 months, and called Yahoo’s attitude refreshing.

Yahoo: We’ve got announcements!

yahoo-night.jpgWhy announce one deal when you can do four?

Just a day after billionaire investor Carl Icahn called for the removal of Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, the company blasted out of the gate Wednesday morning, trumpeting deals with CBS,, Havas Digital and the newspaper consortium.

With CBS, Yahoo will carry some of its shows as the broadcaster continues to proliferate the Web with them through other partners AOL, Microsoft, and Google. For, Yahoo will be the primary marketing and sales channel for the retailer’s web site. Yahoo also said an additional 41 U.S. newspapers have joined its newspaper consortium, which lets them use Yahoo’s paid search system as well as have their stories carried over Yahoo properties.

Yahoo also inked a deal with Havas Digital to develop a proprietary media trading platform.

Apple’s new iPhone: It’s almost time

apple.jpgIt’s almost time, at least we’re pretty sure it’s almost time. Come Monday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is widely expected to introduce a new iPhone at the company’s developers’ conference.

Early buzz is that the new iPhone will be faster and accompanied by support for corporate e-mail, which should help expand the gadget’s audience to the business world. Apple has declined to comment on what Jobs will announce, but speculation can be found just about anywhere on the web.

Rather than spending hours today reading through all the rumors, check out TechCrunch, which gives a good roundup of the iPhone chatter.

Yahoo to Microsoft: No, No, No

yangthinking.jpgDetails of the backroom dealings between Microsoft and Yahoo from an investor lawsuit were unsealed by Delaware Chancery Court Judge William Chandler on Monday.

The document adds some color to what we already know, including a history of rebuffing offers dating back to 2007, criticism over the size of Yahoo’s severance plan by its own consultants and Yahoo’s recently hired CTO.

Notes by a Yahoo participant from a phone call between CEO Jerry Yang and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Ballmer also appear to indicate that Yang quickly rejected Microsoft’s January 2008 overtures, as his predecessor Terry Semel did a year before (at the far higher price of $40).

Bleeding purple or just bleeding?

yahoo1.jpgYahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang says Microsoft just isn’t interested in a full merger these days.

His comments, his most extensive to date on the Microsoft merger drama, back up what had been the talk around town — that chances of a full-fledged merger between the two had dimmed considerably. Yang, however, did signal his company remained open to a potential deal.

“We did not walk away from that proposal. Microsoft did,” Yang said during an on-stage interview at the D: All Things Digital conference.

Breaking up is hard to do – Yahoo’s Yang

Yahoo_YangGetting jilted by your girlfriend. That’s how Yahoo’s Jerry Yang described the falling out with Microsoft mid-negotiations during the most highly anticipated session at D: All Things Digital conference.

How does it feel being left at the altar?
From AllThingsD’s live blog:

Yang: It’s like when you break up with your girlfriend in high school. It very quickly becomes he-said/she-said. I don’t want to look back. But I think we both understand that there is a tremendous amount of power in a combination like the one Microsoft proposed.

Despite the public drubbing for driving Microsoft away, Yang maintains he’s still the best person to lead Yahoo. And not just because he bleeds purple.

Fox: King of the world!

strike.jpgTV strike? What TV strike?

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.”

Sure, “American Idol” ended its latest run with year-to-year declines in both overall audience and ratings for viewers aged 18 to 49 – and the show notched some record ratings lows this season. But let’s be honest here, it’s coming off pretty tough comparisons.

Even if the talent show is fading a bit, the network has built a strong supporting cast around “American Idol,” one that includes “House,” “Bones,” and “24,” which will be back next year after the strike kept it off the schedule this season.

Anyone want some cash back?

dollars.jpgTake that Google!

Microsoft, in a bid to win share of the search market from Google and Yahoo, now plans to offer a new “cashback” service that provides a rebate when users buy something they found searching with Windows Live.

Chairman Bill Gates’ announcement of the rebate plan is the latest loud and clear sign of how much importance Microsoft is placing on advertising. (It apparently has been in talks with a company named, ummm, Yahoo, about just this).

“This is giving you a reason why you should use a particular search engine,” Gates said at the company’s Advance 08 advertising conference.

Microsoft searching for answers

microsoft.jpgThe secret is out: What Microsoft wants is Yahoo’s search business. Reuters has reported that the deal now under discussion would have…

1). Microsoft buy the search operation.

2). Yahoo sell off its Asian assets.

3). Microsoft buy a chunk of what remains of Yahoo.

Microsoft and Yahoo representatives declined to comment on the Reuters report. But clearly these talks are all about search.

And that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, search is crushing all other types of advertising in terms of growth and Google is threatening to run away with market share, leaving Microsoft and all others in the dust.