Yahoo today dispelled any doubt that it’s for sale. The beleaguered Internet pioneer announced that the board formed a Strategic Review Committee consisting of independent directors, and it hired financial and legal teams to “evaluate strategic alternatives for the company.”
Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and PJT Partners will handle financial affairs while Cravath, Swaine & Moore provides the legal brainpower.
CEO Marissa Mayer says she likes the plan. “As both shareholders and employees, all of us here at Yahoo want to return this iconic company to greatness,” she said in a statement. “We can best achieve this by working with the committee to pursue various strategic alternatives while, in parallel, aggressively executing our strategic plan to strengthen our growth businesses and improve efficiency and profitability.”
The announcement helped to lift Yahoo shares by 1.8% this morning. The company has lost nearly a third of its market value over the last 12 months as its core ad-supported Internet media businesses sputtered. Activist investment firm Starboard Value has begun to sound out other shareholders for a potential proxy fight, Bloomberg reported this week.
Mayer has already said that she’d consider selling parts of the company — and planned to cut $400 million in costs, including slashing about 15% of Yahoo’s payroll. This week the company said that it will shutter Yahoo Food, Yahoo Health, Yahoo Parenting, Yahoo Makers, Yahoo Travel, Yahoo Autos and Yahoo Real Estate.
Yesterday, Simon Khalaf, who oversees publisher products, said at a developer conference that he was “partly to blame” for the company’s failure to hit revenue targets because he focused on attracting users instead of ad sales.
Yahoo’s had little to show since Mayer took charge in 2012, aiming to revive the company’s status as a Silicon Valley icon. She sought to beef up the company with deals including a $1 billion acquisition of Tumblr and $650 million for BrightRoll.
She also built media properties around brand-name talent including Katie Couric and former New York Times consumer electronics critic David Pogue. The company produced longform TV shows including Sin City Saints, Other Space and Season 6 of Community, but in October said it had to take a $42 million write-down on them.
Mayer’s gameplan also includes a so-called “reverse spin” for the shares her company owns in Alibaba — which account for more than half of Yahoo’s stock value. She wanted to spin them off tax free, but the IRS declined to give her that guarantee. The plan now is for them to stay at the existing corporation while it creates a new one for its main operations.