The meeting marked a break from the past, when shareholders have repeatedly voiced their disappointment with Yahoo's management and its failure to respond to competitive threats and increase the value of the company's shares. Last year, shareholders withheld support from the board of directors in record numbers after the company rejected a bid from Microsoft to buy Yahoo for $47.5 billion or $33 a share.
"I was hoping that the Microsoft deal would go through, not because I'm a big Microsoft fan but because I don't think the share price will get that high again," said Richard Hackenbery, who became a Yahoo shareholder in 1999. Hackenbery and his wife, Marilyn, drove from Berkeley to the meeting, which was held at the Santa Clara Marriott, to hear Bartz, who became CEO in January, replacing co-founder Jerry Yang.
Yahoo's shares traded at $15.53 on Thursday, up 8 cents and up from a low of $8.94 in November last year. At the meeting, Bartz said if and when there is a deal with Microsoft, they would announce it; otherwise, she had "nothing to say." Yang, who sits on the board of directors and holds the title Chief Yahoo, attended the meeting but did not address it. He later chatted informally with shareholders. David Filo, the other co-founder, did not attend.
Directly addressing shareholders for the first time, Bartz said they should think of Yahoo as the largest online media company, "the place where millions of people come to check what is important to them every day and organize their lives." She also described how she was streamlining Yahoo's organizational structure and shutting down poorly performing properties, which she described as "space debris."
When asked why Yahoo continues to lag Google in financial performance and employee productivity, Bartz said it was time to stop comparing the companies to each other because they have different business models. "Please, this direct comparison model to Google is not fair and is frankly not relevant," she said.
While Google is purely a search-advertising company, search is only part of Yahoo's business, she explained. Bartz also said that Yahoo did not have a "vision problem" but that it had an "execution problem," which it was working hard to fix.
"I was very impressed with her," said Marilyn Neuterman, a retiree living in San Jose. "She gave good, clear answers and conducted a nice meeting." In formal business at the meeting, shareholders re-elected the board of directors and followed the company's recommendation on four additional proposals, including three that dealt with appointing an accounting firm, the stock plan and employee stock options. Shareholders vetoed a fourth proposal that would have given them a say on executive pay.
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