ADOTAS – Let the battles begin! Er, continue! Carl Icahn has launched a proxy battle to force Yahoo into talks (again) with Microsoft, the activist shareholder said in an open letter addressed to Yahoo’s chairman, Roy Bostock.
Icahn said Yahoo’s board members behaved “irrationally” and contrary to their best interests, when they rejected Microsoft’s $47.5 billion offer. He said that he would nominate an alternate slate of directors to Yahoo’s board and seek antitrust clearance to acquire a $2.5 billion stake in Yahoo.
The full text of the letter from Icahn:
Carl C. Icahn
ICAHN CAPITAL LP
767 Fifth Avenue, 47th Floor
New York, NY 10153
May 15, 2008
701 First Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
Dear Mr. Bostock:
It is clear to me that the board of directors of Yahoo has acted irrationally and lost the faith of shareholders and Microsoft. It is quite obvious that Microsoft’s bid of $33 per share is a superior alternative to Yahoo’s prospects on a standalone basis.
I am perplexed by the board’s actions. It is irresponsible to hide behind management’s more than overly optimistic financial forecasts. It is unconscionable that you have not allowed your shareholders to choose to accept an offer that represented a 72% premium over Yahoo’s closing price of $19.18 on the day before the initial Microsoft offer. I and many of your shareholders strongly believe that a combination between Yahoo and Microsoft would form a dynamic company and more importantly would be a force strong enough to compete with Google on the Internet.
During the past week, a number of shareholders have asked me to lead a proxy fight to attempt to remove the current board and to establish a new board which would attempt to negotiate a successful merger with Microsoft, something that in my opinion the current board has completely botched. I believe that a combination between Microsoft and Yahoo is by far the most sensible path for both companies. I have therefore taken the following actions: (1) during the last 10 days, I have purchased approximately 59 million shares and share-equivalents of Yahoo; (2) I have formed a 10-person slate which will stand for election against the current board; and (3) I have sought antitrust clearance from the Federal Trade Commission to acquire up to approximately $2.5 billion worth of Yahoo stock. The biographies of the members of our slate are attached to this letter. A more formal notification is being delivered today to Yahoo under separate cover.
While it is my understanding that you do not intend to enter into any transaction that would impede a Microsoft-Yahoo merger, I am concerned that in several recent press releases you stated that you intend to pursue certain “strategic alternatives”. I therefore hope and trust that if there is any question that these “strategic alternatives” might in any way impede a future Microsoft merger you will at the very least allow shareholders to opine on them before embarking on such a transaction.
I sincerely hope you heed the wishes of your shareholders and move expeditiously to negotiate a merger with Microsoft, thereby making a proxy fight unnecessary.
CARL C. ICAHN
Lucian A. Bebchuk
Lucian Bebchuk is the William J. Friedman and Alicia Townsend Friedman Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance and Director of the Program on Corporate Governance at Harvard Law School. Bebchuk is also a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and Inaugural Fellow of the European Corporate Governance Network. Trained in both law and economics, Bebchuk holds an LL.M. and S.J.D. from Harvard Law School and an M.A. and Ph.D in Economics from the Harvard Economics Department. He joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor, becoming a full professor in 1988, and the Friedman Professor of Law, Economics and Finance in 1998. Bebchuk has written extensively on corporate governance, corporate control, and corporate transactions. He has published more than seventy research articles in academic journals in law, economics, and finance. Upon electing him to membership in 2000, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences cited him as “[o]ne of the nation’s leading scholars of law and economics,” who “has made major contribution to the study of corporate control, governance, and insolvency.” He is the 2007-2008 President of the American Law and Economics Association, and a former chair of the Business Association Section of the American Association of Law Teachers. Bebchuk’s recent writings include Pay without Performance: the Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation (Harvard University Press, 2004, co-authored with Jesse Fried), “The Case for Increasing Shareholder Power” (Harvard Law Review, 2005), “The Costs of Entrenched Boards” (Journal of Financial Economics, 2005, co-authored with Alma Cohen), and “The Myth of the Shareholder Franchise” (Virginia Law Review, 2007). Bebchuk has been a frequent contributor to policy making and public discourse in the corporate governance area. He has appeared before the Senate Finance Committee, the House Committee of Financial Services, and the SEC. He has published many op-ed pieces, including in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Financial Times. He was included in the list of “100 most influential people in finance” of Treasury & Risk Management and the list of “100 most influential players in corporate governance” of Directorship magazine.