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Culture

No love lost from Jerry Yang when it comes to Microsoft

If the Yahoo CEO "can't stand" Redmond now, just imagine how much he'll detest working inside a corporate culture very different from the "Yahoo way."

Yahoo may indeed agree to Microsoft's $44.6 billion bear hug, but it will be over Jerry Yang's dead body.

People familiar with Yahoo's chief executive say he "can't stand" Microsoft, which can't come as a big surprise considering the decade-long rivalry between the companies.

The "Yahoo way." That speaks volumes about why Yahoo finds itself in its current straits. In the second decade of the Internet Age, who still believes you can rely on yesterday's corporate playbook when the terrain is changing as we speak?

Back to Yang. If he hates it now, imagine how much he'll detest working inside a corporate culture where the CEO fails to command kowtowing from lesser-paid humans. Say what you like about Microsoft, but Steve Ballmer thrives when underlings get in his face and try to prove him wrong. They may trigger a confrontation, but disagreements can generate a positive dialectic where issues get (loudly) hashed out.

Not so at Yahoo where subordinates speak of Jerry the Seer with hushed reverence.

"You don't disagree with Jerry in meetings," says an informant who has participated in planning sessions with Yang and his lieutenants. "That's just not the Yahoo way."

Not that Yang's antipathy ultimately will matter. According to the most recent ownership document I found, Yang held about a 4 percent stake. That's enough to get your voice heard in any conclave, but Yang will just be one among equals when it comes to a final vote. Trust Yahoo's board to hold out for the best deal--be it from Microsoft, Google, or a still unknown bidder. At this juncture, the company's choices are to sell out or suffer a slow slide into mediocrity.

Besides, if Microsoft's bid does indeed carry the day, you won't need anyone to push Yang out. He'll head for the exits as soon as the lawyers say he legally can turn in his corporate key.