At one point, she even compared her challenge to those that faced Steve Jobs when he returned to Apple Inc. as CEO in 1997.
Unlike Jobs, Bartz never was able to articulate a strategy to win over investors.
“She focused on plugging holes in the ship instead of turning it around,” said Gartner Inc. analyst Ray Valdes.
The disappointing performance was reflected in Yahoo’s stock price, which closed Tuesday at $12.91. That’s 81 cents, or 7 percent, higher than where Yahoo shares stood when Bartz was hired as CEO. During the same period, Google’s stock price has risen by more than $200, or 66 percent, and the technology-driven Nasdaq composite index has climbed by 60 percent. A group of investors led by Goldman Sachs Group concluded privately held Facebook is worth $50 billion in an appraisal done earlier this year. That’s triple Yahoo’s current market value.
Bartz never hit any of the price targets that the board set for her when she was hired. That means none of the 5 million stock options that she received upon signing her contract had vested by the time she was ushered out the door.
Although Bartz’s exit as CEO came suddenly, her departure isn’t a shock. The pressure to replace her grew earlier this year after Bartz acknowledged Yahoo’s search partnership with Microsoft wasn’t producing as much revenue as the companies anticipated.
Alipay in July agreed to a complex settlement that could eventually be worth more than $1 billion to Yahoo, but there were too many uncertainties in the deal to placate shareholders.
Bostock had steadfastly stood behind Bartz whenever she was attacked by investors or analysts. In a Tuesday statement, Bostock thanked Bartz for “her service to Yahoo during a critical time of transition in the company’s history” without providing an explanation for why the board decided to replace her.
BGC partners analyst Colin Gillis said Yahoo’s board “has got to look in the mirror here.”
“Swapping the CEO without swapping the (board) chair doesn’t solve your problem,” he said. “The person that hired Carol to begin with deserves to share the culpability.”
To help Morse, Yahoo set up an “executive leadership council” that includes some of the executives that Bartz recruited, including the company’s products guru Blake Irving and the head of its North American operations, Ross Levinsohn. While he worked for News Corp., Levinsohn helped put together the Hulu video site and is seen as a possible CEO candidate.
Analysts also have speculated that David Kenny, an Internet veteran who joined Yahoo’s board in April, might be a candidate for Yahoo’s CEO job. Kenny is currently president of Internet networking services provider Akamai Technologies Inc.
With its stock sagging and its management in limbo, Yahoo could be more vulnerable to a takeover attempt by a private equity group or another opportunistic bidder attracted to what remains one of the Internet’s best-known brands. Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo for $47.5 billion, or $33 per share, in 2008 only to be rebuffed.