DealZone

Is CNET losing the war?

dictionary2.jpgIn the war of words between CNET and its biggest shareholder, a group led by hedge fund Jana Partners, the two sides might as well be speaking in different tongues.

Jana proclaims that its motives are driven by a desire to rescue CNET — best known for tech-news site News.com, which has been hit by stiff competition from blogs — from irrelevance.

CNET prefers to speak the language of corporate bylaws that it believes will protect the company from unwanted attention, despite a recent legal setback that it plans to appeal.

But Jana seems to have understood perfectly CNET chief Neil Ashe’s recent letter to employees, where he called the dissidents “opportunistic shareholders” and labeled the proxy fight a chess match. As blogger Michael Arrington — whose TechCrunch is a big thorn in CNET’s side, according to Dealbook — reported, Jana would rather get rid of Ashe.

Stockholder activism: just a game of chess

chess.jpgThe Delaware court ruled in favor of Jana Partners, allowing the hedge fund and its partners to nominate directors to CNET Networks’ board, come the next shareholder meeting.

But that decision is “just another move on the chess board,” according to CNET’s CEO Neil Ashe. In an e-mail to employees, Ashe compared¬†fights between activist shareholders and managements for board control to chess matches.

“Remember, stockholder activism is more common place today,”¬†Ashe wrote. “We are not alone. The New York Times and IAC are both addressing similar situations. As I’ve said since the beginning, this is like a chess match.”