Yahoo’s Jerry Yang Needs to Get on With Things

By all accounts Yahoo’s Jerry Yang is a nice guy. But he is beginning to bug me, especially with his latest "Dear Steve" note to Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer.

Purportedly a calm and rational letter laying out why Yahoo continues to reject Microsoft’s acquisition-related entreaties, it is mischievous and irritating. The note is replete with cute stuff and homespun dealmaking ditziness, all running over top of that Yang-ian "i love lower-case" faux familiarity.

Granted, there is no "sent from a Blackberry" lower case this time around, but there is that opening "Dear Steve". Why the we’re-just-dealmaking-buds tone? In part because that’s one of Yang’s embarrassing tropes. He wants to seem warm and personal to his Yahooligans, a combination of Yahoo’s founder and its curator, not some Microsoft-style power-mad CEO presiding over a company of fawning minions.

The trouble is, Yang is Yahoo’s CEO, and this isn’t about who’s friends with whom in the techie schoolyard. Microsoft wants to buy his company, and while such discussions can get personal, Yang seeming more warm and cuddly than Steve Ballmer is a) not hard, and b) irrelevant and offensive. And to twist Ballmer’s words on what does or does not constitute productive negotiations, as Yang does, puts the lie to the rest of Yang’s happy-talk.

Nevertheless, the content of Yang’s letter, most of which, unlike the tail-wagging salutation, was likely pushed on him by the board, makes clear a few things:

  • Yahoo is ready to do a deal ["open to all alternative"]
  • It wants more cash in the deal, or at least a higher floor on the price [that’s the "more certainty" part of the note]
  • It would like a higher price [the poorly worded "at a value that fully reflects the value"]

The sooner Yang stops trying to be a kinder, gentler CEO, and just gets on with getting this deal figured out — which the above points make clear his company wants to do — the better.