Activist shareholders who have held significant sway over internet company Yahoo have now proposed plans to radically downsize its workforce of 10,700, presenting an alternative to the board's decision last week to pursue a reverse spin maneuver.
That move to sell Yahoo's core advertising and search business and become a holding company for its $31 billion stake in Chinese e-commerce website Alibaba would take at least a year, a time frame that the Associated Press reports one investor group, Canyon Capital, called "simply unacceptable."
A previous and long-pursued plan to spinoff the company's Alibaba shares was shelved last week after another shareholder, Starboard Value, threatened to overthrow Yahoo's board. A large factor: It was unclear whether the company would be able to avoid paying taxes on the gains from its first $1 billion investment in Alibaba.
Now another activist investor, New York hedge fund SpringOwl, has sent a lengthy 99-slide presentation — or list of demands, really — to Yahoo's board. In order to save $2 billion a year, they argue, the company should lay off 9,000 employees, reducing staff to 3,000 full-time employees and contractors.
Quartz adds that SpringOwl criticized spending on employees generally. Free food for Yahoo workers cost the company an estimated $450 million over four years. $9.3 million was spent on providing employees with the iPhone 6. And elaborate, lavish parties such as a recent and perhaps tragically themed Great Gatsby holiday event also drew fire. For further reference, see last year's Wizard of Oz themed shindig.
CEO Marissa Mayer, who is on brief maternity leave after giving birth to twins, will return to a pursue a high-stakes reorganization of her company — if she isn't reorganized out of it herself. If she is to part ways with Yahoo, her severance package would be significant, though not as hefty as initially speculated. Mayer has also been the target of criticism from activist investors. "We do not understand the board's continued support of the company's senior management team," added Canyon Capital, "given its track record."
Rob Enderle of advisory services firm Enderle Group contextualizes the dissent to the Chronicle. “While they are not aligned with each other in what the fix is, it shows a lack of support for the board... And when that happens, you got a problem." Yahoo did not comment to the press on the letters from investors.