June 23, 2011 9:38 pm

Yahoo chiefs get less shareholder support

Nearly 20 per cent of Yahoo’s shares were voted against the re-election to the board of the company’s chairman and chief executive, a sign of continuing discontent with the company’s stock performance and handling of its Asian assets.

Yahoo said a preliminary tally from the annual investor meeting on Thursday showed “more than 80 per cent” of votes were case in favour of the re-election of chairman Roy Bostock and chief executive Carol Bartz, in contrast with more than 90 per cent voting to elect the remainder of the board.

The company has been under fire because its stock has languished while newer internet groups such as Facebook and LinkedIn have boomed in private and public valuations. Yahoo shares were down 1.7 per cent at $14.97 in afternoon trading following the meeting and are broadly flat with a year ago.

Shareholders are also worried that its more than 40 per cent investment in China’s Alibaba Group is being diluted, because that company has sold off leading Chinese payment processor Alipay to a group controlled by Alibaba founder Jack Ma on uncertain terms. Negotiations between Yahoo, Alibaba and Alibaba’s second-biggest shareholder Softbank are making substantial progress, the three said in a joint statement this week.

Ms Bartz said at the meeting that the companies had agreed not to give details on the talks until they are complete.

Mr Bostock began the shareholder meeting by saying Ms Bartz was doing a good job on a long-running turnround effort at Yahoo and that the board still backed her. “This board is very supportive of Carol and the management team”, he said.

“We have to fix the engine room of this company and that is what we have been doing for the past two years”, Mr Bostock said. “A lot of it is being done without recognition”.

He said that reduced costs, new senior managers and a focus on video and other premium display advertising was giving the company “a clear path forward … to accelerated revenue growth and value creation”.

But a shareholder speaking from the floor said he believed the board should accelerate rumoured discussions with potential successors to Ms Bartz and consider selling or restructuring the company. “The last thing Yahoo needs right now is a lame duck CEO,” he said.

A Yahoo spokesman told the Financial Times that “the board emphatically emphasises that there is no search” for a new chief executive.

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