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Stock Market Responds to Yahoo! CEO Ousting, Experts Believe Company Will Sell

"There's no quick fix for Yahoo."

After firing CEO Carol Bartz yesterday (over the phone, mind you), a Yahoo! insider told the Wall Street Journal that it is "open to selling itself to the right bidder."

All Things D noted that in after-hours trading last night, the company's stuck was up 81 cents to $13.72 per share. According to Bloomberg, early trading this morning, Yahoo! stock rose 7.3 percent to $13.85 per share.

With Bartz just two years on the job, the board of directors was apparently not impressed with the company's progress and announced "leadership reorganization", appointing Timothy Morse as interim Chief Executive Officer:

Roy Bostock, Chairman of the Yahoo! Board, said, "The Board sees enormous growth opportunities on which Yahoo! can capitalize, and our primary objective is to leverage the Company's leadership and current business assets and platforms to execute against these opportunities. We have talented teams and tremendous resources behind them and intend to return the Company to a path of robust growth and industry-leading innovation. We are committed to exploring and evaluating possibilities and opportunities that will put Yahoo! on a trajectory for growth and innovation and deliver value to shareholders."

Watch coverage from AP:

Business Insider has analysis on the split:

The board canned Bartz, the WSJ's sources say, after studying the company's assets for two weeks and concluding that Bartz was doing a lousy job. If this is really true, one wonders what on earth the board has been doing for the past two years, while pretty much everyone else concluded the same thing.

There's no quick fix for Yahoo. The company needs to embrace the fact that it's now a media, content, and communications company -- and make heavy investments in those areas. It needs to radically streamline itself. And it needs a leader with a clear product vision and the ability to execute on it.

ZDNet compiled comments from several analysts questioning whether Yahoo! will sell before it names another CEO. Jeffries analyst Youssef Squali wrote:

Given the succession of three CEOs in less than four years, it’ll be challenging for the board to find an A player who’d be willing to take on the daunting task, and for investors to wait for yet again another turnaround to happen. We believe that Yahoo! sells itself before a permanent CEO is announced.

Deutsche Bank analyst Jeetil Patel wrote (via ZDNet):

Shares of Yahoo! traded higher in after-hours trading on the news, as emotionally exhausted investors have new reason to hope to see value unlocked in Yahoo shares with this change. A new CEO may be better positioned to negotiate with partners in China were relations strained under Bartz. In addition, a private equity buyer could seek to unlock the value of the Asian assets and leverage up the core of Yahoo, which continues to generate cash flow despite competitive and operational challenges.

In review of Bartz's performance, the Huffington Post notes that when she was hired in 2009, Bartz was touted as a "professional manager who could clean up the place":

While Bartz has streamlined certain areas and made some strong management hires, her performance has been decidedly bumpy and mostly downhill.

The share price has settled in at about $12.50 (just about where it was when Bartz took over), Yahoo’s recent financial results have been weak, its key advertising business is struggling, its attrition rate among engineers and others is startlingly high and its product innovation cycle seems stopped up.

Add to that: Weak relationships with key Asian partners, a pricey but failed marketing effort and a proclivity for embarrassing verbal gaffes by Bartz. [...]

While board chairman Bostock has publicly backed Bartz — after all, he was her biggest champion at the time of her hiring — multiple sources said he had started to become more involved at looking at the management issues at the company and its challenges.

[Co-founder and director Jerry] Yang — still a key figure at Yahoo — has also become more active, said sources, and tensions between him and Bartz have increased over the last few months.

Even with such criticism, Bloomberg reports some analysts as saying a new CEO should keep Bartz's strategy of remaining invested in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.:

In 2005, Alibaba Group sold a stake of about 40 percent to Yahoo for $1 billion and ownership of Yahoo’s Chinese unit. The Hangzhou, eastern China-based company now operates e-commerce businesses including Alibaba.com and Taobao.com, in addition to Yahoo’s local website.

“It’s a tremendous dilemma,” said Mark Natkin, managing director at research company Marbridge Consulting Ltd. in Beijing. “If the company has great prospects, you don’t really want to sell out. So it’s a question of how much pain you have to endure going forward.”

Yahoo would want to stay invested in Alibaba until one or more of its units do initial public offerings, he said. [...]

Bartz’s departure will only have a positive impact on Alibaba if Yahoo is able to find a CEO who can revive the company to its former stature, said Allen Weiner, an analyst at research company Gartner Inc.

“A new leader who has that sort of vision would be a person who understands the power of a global footprint and how to make the pieces of an international media company work together,” Weiner said.

Late yesterday, Bartz sent a simple email to staff announcing her departure:

To all,

I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s Chairman of the Board. It has been my pleasure to work with all of you and I wish you only the best going forward.

Carol

Today, Morse, the interim CEO, will be holding an all-hands meeting Yahoo!'s Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters.

One last thing…
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