Yahoo’s effort to make peace with hedge fund Third Point, the company’s staunchest critic and owner of 5.8% of the voting shares, was a bust. The struggling Internet giant hoped to end Third Point’s planned proxy fight by naming three independent directors — including former Discovery COO and Fox Entertainment exec Peter Liguori — and giving the fund a say in the choice of two other directors. Yahoo says that “there is value in avoiding the cost and distraction that inevitably accompanies a proxy fight.” But Third Point rejected the plan, saying that it shows “one of Yahoo!’s paramount principles of corporate governance is ‘Shareholders not welcome’.” That leaves the fund with “no choice but to take our case directly to our fellow shareholders…Yahoo!’s shareholders deserve a voice and a choice. We intend to provide them with one at this year’s Annual Meeting.” Third Point’s slate consists of CEO Daniel Loeb, corporate restructuring expert Harry Wilson, media consultant Michael Wolf, and former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Zucker. Last week Loeb complained that Yahoo had been “dismissive” in its review of his slate.
In addition to Liguori, Yahoo said that beginning April 5 it will add to the board outgoing IAC/InterActive Corp CFO Thomas McInerney, and American Express Chief Marketing Officer John Hayes. Yahoo said if Third Point dropped its fight, then the company would also accept Wilson and someone else who’s “mutually acceptable” to both sides – but not one of the hedge fund’s other candidates. Yahoo said that Loeb wouldn’t end his fight “unless he personally was appointed to the Board.” But directors determined that “other candidates were more qualified for the position.” Yahoo says that it “remains open to hearing Third Point’s ideas and to working constructively with Third Point, but believes that appointing Mr. Loeb to the Board is not in the best interest of the Company and its shareholders.” Last month the company attacked Loeb’s “potentially disruptive” campaign “just as the Company is moving forward under new leadership to aggressively increase the value of Yahoo! for the benefit of all of its shareholders.” The fight comes as Yahoo struggles to chart a new course amid turmoil at the top with the firing last year of Carol Bartz as CEO and the resignation from the board of co-founder Jerry Yang. Its stock is down 9.3% over the last 12 months.
Here’s Yahoo’s release about its new board members and peace effort with Third Point:
SUNNYVALE, Calif.– Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO), the premier digital media company, today announced that its Board appointed three new independent directors, effective April 5, 2012: John D. Hayes, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of American Express Company; Peter Liguori, former Chief Operating Officer of Discovery Communications, Inc. and former Chairman and President of Entertainment of Fox Broadcasting Network; and Thomas J. McInerney, the outgoing Chief Financial Officer of IAC/InterActiveCorp.
“Each of these individuals impressed the search committee with their demonstrable records of significant accomplishment at the highest levels of media, advertising and marketing, finance, including corporate finance and restructuring, and further insight into customers’ perspectives. Together, they bring a powerful mix of exactly the right ingredients to fuel Yahoo!’s forward momentum. Having thoroughly reviewed a broad range of highly qualified candidates and sought input from a number of major shareholders, the Committee enthusiastically recommended to the full Board the appointment of these three excellent directors,” said Patti Hart, chairman of the Board’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee, which conducted the search process.
Roy Bostock, Chairman of the Board, added, “Yahoo! is moving aggressively to increase shareholder value. We have appointed a capable and dynamic CEO who is driving the business towards its next era of success. And we have reconstituted the Board of Directors with the right mix of experience and expertise to help Yahoo! build upon its very strong assets and brand base to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.”
The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee conducted the search process in conjunction with a leading professional search firm and identified, interviewed and evaluated a wide range of candidates, including Third Point’s nominees. Following completion of the Committee’s evaluation process, the Committee and the Board determined that the group of candidates announced today were the best qualified, based particularly on their individual accomplishments and records of value creation in other positions with specific relevance to Yahoo!’s business and its opportunities.
At the same time, in view of Third Point’s significant ownership position and the qualifications of Harry Wilson, the Board concluded that it was appropriate to propose that Mr. Wilson and a second individual mutually acceptable to both Third Point and the Yahoo! Board of Directors, outside of the other Third Point nominees, join the Board in settlement of Third Point’s solicitation. In addition, the Board believed that there is value in avoiding the cost and distraction that inevitably accompanies a proxy fight, and determined that this proposal was in the best interest of all of its shareholders to avoid that expenditure of resources. Third Point founder and Chief Executive Officer Daniel Loeb rejected this proposal and declined to end Third Point’s solicitation with respect to its own four candidates unless he personally was appointed to the Board. Based on the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee’s thorough review of a broad range of candidates and their qualifications, including Third Point’s nominees, the Board determined that other candidates were more qualified for the position. The Board remains open to hearing Third Point’s ideas and to working constructively with Third Point, but believes that appointing Mr. Loeb to the Board is not in the best interest of the Company and its shareholders.
The Board continues to believe that the Company needs to move quickly to implement change and improve its performance. The Yahoo! management team is moving with a sense of urgency to reshape and refocus the Company on its core strengths, with an emphasis on redeploying resources to the most productive areas and equipping the Company to invest in growth and innovation. As now constituted, the Board has a well-rounded combination of financial, media, advertising, marketing, operating and technology expertise necessary to bring the right leadership to build value for all Yahoo! shareholders.
Mr. Hayes, one of the nation’s most innovative marketing executives with an expertise in digital marketing, has served as Chief Marketing Officer at American Express since 2003, overseeing that company’s marketing strategies and product development, as well as its global marketing, market research and publishing organizations. Prior to that, he served for eight years as American Express Executive Vice President, Global Advertising and Brand Management, responsible for brand marketing worldwide. He began his career in the brand and advertising industry and, among his senior positions, he served as President of Lowe & Partners where he led that firm to unprecedented growth through the development of product position and global campaigns for several major corporate clients.
Mr. Liguori served as Chief Operating Officer of Discovery, the leading non-fiction media company in the world, through 2011. Prior to that, he served as Chairman and President of Entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Company. Previously, he was President and CEO of FX Networks, NewsCorp’s flagship entertainment cable network. He also served in a series of positions with Home Box Office, including as Vice President, Consumer Marketing where he had responsibility for marketing efforts supporting the HBO brand and HBO original movies. He began his career in the advertising industry, including positions at Saatchi & Saatchi, Compton and Ogilvy & Mather Advertising with clients such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever. He currently serves on the boards of The Topps Company, Inc. and MGM Studios.
Mr. McInerney served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of IAC from January 2005 to March 2012. From January 2003 through December 2005, he was Chief Executive Officer of IAC’s Retailing sector. Prior to that time, Mr. McInerney served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Ticketmaster and its predecessor company, Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch, Inc. He also worked as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley for 11 years, working with a wide variety of public companies across several industries, advising on restructuring, M&A, IPO and other capital-raising activities. He also serves on the boards of HSN, Inc. and Interval Leisure Group, Inc.
Earlier this year, independent directors Alfred Amoroso and Maynard Webb were appointed to the Board. With today’s appointments, the Board has added a total of five new highly qualified independent directors this year. It is expected that the majority of directors will be new to the Board in 2012 following this year’s Annual Meeting of Stockholders, and that the entire Board will be new since January 2010. As previously announced, four directors volunteered not to stand for re-election at the next annual meeting, and an additional director resigned from the Board earlier this year.