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Yang calls Microsoft bid 'galvanizing.' That's nice.

At a conference in Phoenix, the search giant's CEO says a takeover bid by Microsoft has his company focused. Too bad that's what it took.

There's nothing like the threat of losing what you've spent your adult life building to encourage a little focus.

Jerry Yang
Jerry Yang

Yahoo founder and CEO Jerry Yang said at an advertising conference in Phoenix Monday morning that Microsoft's multibillion-dollar offer to buy Yahoo is a "galvanizing" eventfor his (and here comes that word) beleaguered company. Yang said he's meeting with his board of directors and key "constituents" to defend against what many expect to soon turn into a hostile bid.

Here's a thought: Where was this "galvanizing" energy before Microsoft came along? It wasn't apparent when former CEO Terry Semel's sprawling media strategy was starting to collapse under the weight of its shiny, new Santa Monica, Calif., office. It wasn't readily apparent in the eight months since Semel left the company. It certainly wasn't apparent as Yahoo watched Google turn the race for search market share into a laugher. Nor was it apparent in the slow reaction to the company's share price slide that led up to the Microsoft bid.

In fairness, Yang could have been barking Patton-like orders as he's tried to get his company back on track. It's hard to imagine, but you never know. All we have to go on is a public record that, while hardly a disaster, showed no signs of excitement, let alone a company that was focused on doing what it took to compete with Google.

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We've seen this sort of last-minute energy burst in takeover fights before. When database king Oracle launched a hostile bid of enterprise software rival PeopleSoft in 2003, PeopleSoft founder David Duffield (still the chairman of his company but by many accounts more interested in rescuing dogs and cats than building software) reengaged with his company. He took over when CEO Craig Conway was ousted--not long before the Oracle offer became so big that not even a rabid Oracle hater like Duffield (this is a man who a year earlier led his company in "Kill Oracle!" chants) could say "no."

Now that's serious venom. By comparison, the scrap between Microsoft and Yahoo looks like a courtly waltz. Duffield, we should note, ultimately bowed to shareholder pressure. His late entry into the fray may have galvanized his employees for a while, but it was too little, too late. It's too early to write Yahoo's epitaph. But Yahoo employees and customers who want their Internet darling to stay independent should hope Yang has better luck.