SAN FRANCISCO – Yahoo is facing shareholder pressure to pursue other alternatives besides a complex spinoff of its Internet operations while CEO Marissa Mayer struggles to revive the company’s revenue growth.
The demands from SpringOwl Asset Management and Canyon Capital Advisors reflect shareholders’ frustration with Mayer’s inability to snap the company out of a financial funk after three-and-half years on the job.
Mayer hoped to placate investors with last week’s announcement of a revised spinoff, but the company’s stock has slid 6 per cent since then. The shares fell 32 cents to close Monday at $32.59.
SpringOwl, a New York hedge fund, has sent a 99-page presentation to Yahoo’s board that calls for the company to lay off 9,000 of its 10,700 workers and eliminate free food for employees to help save $2 billion annually.
Canyon Capital, a Los Angeles investment firm, wants Yahoo to sell its Internet business instead of spinning it off.
Yahoo has warned the spinoff could take more than a year to complete, a time frame that Canyon Capital called “simply unacceptable” after Yahoo spent most of this year preparing to break off its $31 billion stake in China’s Alibaba Group in an attempt to avoid paying taxes on the gains from its initial investment of $1 billion.
Yahoo scrapped the Alibaba spinoff after another shareholder, Starboard Value, threatened an attempt to overthrow the board if the company stuck to that plan. Starboard and other investors were worried the Alibaba stake would be taxed at a cost of more than $10 billion after the Internal Revenue Service declined to guarantee it would qualify for an exemption.
Yahoo Inc. didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment about the critiques from SpringOwl and Canyon Capital.
Now that two more shareholders expressing their dismay with Yahoo’s direction, Mayer’s fate could be tied to a cost-cutting reorganization that she has been working on for the past two months. Mayer, who is on a brief maternity leave after giving birth to twins last week, says the overhaul will jettison Yahoo’s least profitable products — a shake-up that could lay off a large number of workers.
The details of the reorganization are supposed to be announced next month when the Sunnyvale, California, company releases its fourth-quarter earnings.
In its Dec. 11 letter to Yahoo’s board, Canyon Capital indicated that Mayer already has been given too much time to turn things around.
“We do not understand the board’s continued support of the company’s senior management team, given its track record,” Canyon Capital wrote.