Corporate raiders of the purple ark, the sequel: Will new search for answers at Yahoo yield different result?

Once again, Yahoo could deliver for those who like to watch a good fight. With the troubled Sunnyvale company announcing three new board directors Sunday — surprise, not one of them is recommended by activist investor Daniel Loeb — a battle for control over the company is inevitable. Third Point, the hedge fund headed by Loeb that’s Yahoo’s biggest outside shareholder, said in a statement Sunday night that it intends to go ahead and push its own slate of directors. Although a proxy fight will be “time-consuming” and “distracting,” Yahoo has left it “no choice,” according to Third Point’s statement.

Last time a dissident investor went after Yahoo, it was 2008 and the noisemaker was Carl Icahn. Yahoo had received unwanted advances from  Microsoft — advances it eventually spurned — leaving investors feeling quite dissatisfied. Icahn, the yin to then-CEO Jerry Yang, talked tough, tried to broker a deal with Microsoft, and eventually muscled his way onto Yahoo’s board by threatening a proxy fight. (See Yahoo board to add “a well-known corporate agitator with a short-term approach.”)

By the way, along with T. Boone Pickens, Third Point was an Icahn backer and at the time was also amassing Yahoo shares. (See Boone? It’s Carl — we’re getting the band back together.) Loeb reportedly is no stranger to making noise himself — fighting Yahoo’s purple power is no job for a shrinking violet.

But back to Icahn. After failing to get Microsoft interested in rekindling talks with Yahoo, Icahn stayed on the board about a year; praised the hiring of Carol Bartz as CEO, saying he wished she could be “cloned“; and left with his fat wallet just a tad bit lighter. (Icahn has admitted not making money from Yahoo. Bartz got a couple of years to try to right the ship but was fired in September.) Yang stayed on the board for a few more years, but earlier this year announced he would sever ties with the company he co-founded. Chairman Roy Bostock, first an Icahn target and now being blasted by Loeb, and a couple of other directors then said they won’t be seeking re-election, but Sunday’s announcement is obviously their parting shot.

The big question this time around: Will Yahoo come out of this fight intact? In the few years since the Microsoft-Icahn Incident, Yahoo’s challenges have piled up as it continues to struggle to establish a focus, and its competition — such as Facebook, which it is now engaging in a patent fight — has only grown stronger. The other big thing on Yahoo’s plate: a major reorganization under new CEO Scott Thompson, including many job cuts, is said to be looming. As the Mercury News reported recently, though, analysts say massive layoffs wouldn’t solve the company’s problems.

Meanwhile, Yahoo investors know only too well that the company’s shares are trading more than 10 percent lower than they were when Icahn left the board in 2009, and at less than half of Microsoft’s $33-a-share offer. Ahead of a looming proxy fight during a yet-t0-be-announced shareholder meeting this year, Yahoo shares up slightly to $15.40 as of this post.

 

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