Yahoo! delays meeting to avoid showdown

The internet company Yahoo! has postponed its annual meeting as it grapples with the prospect of a shareholder rebellion in which as many as 30 candidates may try their luck in getting elected to its board of directors.

As talks continue with Microsoft over the possibility of a tie-up, Yahoo! has urged investors to resist the temptation of backing the billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn’s attempt to snatch control of the company.

A potentially rowdy gathering in California was due to be held on July 3 but Yahoo! has put it off to an unspecified date ”expected to be around the end of July 2008”.

Scott Kessler, a technology analyst at Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency in New York, said: ”This is largely about getting more time to negotiate over potential corporate transactions and over Yahoo!’s increasingly involved shareholder base.”

In a regulatory filing, Yahoo! revealed that in addition to Icahn’s slate of 10 boardroom nominees, two individual investors have put themselves up for election and a third stockholder has given notice he intends to offer nine candidates as directors — although Yahoo! is disputing these applicants’ compliance with its rules.

Compounding the situation, one of the present 10-strong board has resigned. Ed Kozel, a former Cisco executive, has stepped down saying he wants to spend more time with his family. This means that 21 rebels and nine incumbents want seats on Yahoo!’s board.

Kessler said: ”This situation seems to get more and more interesting, and at the same time more and more tedious, as the days go by.”

Disillusioned shareholders are pummelling Yahoo! with criticism over its failure to agree to a $47,5-billion takeover by Microsoft. Talks between the two companies have resumed, though Microsoft now favours a slimmed-down deal pooling search-related advertising capabilities.

Yahoo!’s co-founders, Jerry Yang and David Filo, have taken much of the blame for refusing to sell the company. Reports suggest the two thirtysomething entrepreneurs are now getting ”adult supervision” from non-executive directors in conducting negotiations.

”They are telling us it is ‘adult supervision’,” one investor told the influential technology blog All Things Digital. ”And that Jerry has more of a realistic attitude now too that some kind of transaction has to happen and Yahoo! has few options.”

Yahoo!’s shares slipped 20 cents to $27,33 during early trading on Nasdaq, well below the $31-a-share Microsoft was prepared to pay for the company.

At its annual meeting, Yahoo! also faces a resolution on censorship and human rights over its controversial co-operation with the Chinese authorities. – Â

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