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The Official Words: Icahn to Bostock, Bostock to Icahn

lettersCarl Icahn today made his interest in Yahoo official.  More details on the proxy fight can be found in the related summary article here on Metue. Here, reprinted in entirety are the letters exchanged between Carl Icahn, initiating the attack, and Yahoo’s Roy Bostock, acknowledging it. (Biographies of his proposed board slate are available here).


THE ATTACK: Icahn to Yahoo

Dear Mr. Bostock:

It is clear to me that the board of directors of Yahoo has acted irrationally and lost the faith of shareholders and Microsoft. It is quite obvious that Microsoft’s bid of $33 per share is a superior alternative to Yahoo’s prospects on a standalone basis. I am perplexed by the board’s actions. It is irresponsible to hide behind management’s more than overly optimistic financial forecasts. It is unconscionable that you have not allowed your shareholders to choose to accept an offer that represented a 72% premium over Yahoo’s closing price of $19.18 on the day before the initial Microsoft offer. I and many of your shareholders strongly believe that a combination between Yahoo and Microsoft would form a dynamic company and more importantly would be a force strong enough to compete with Google on the Internet.

During the past week, a number of shareholders have asked me to lead a proxy fight to attempt to remove the current board and to establish a new board which would attempt to negotiate a successful merger with Microsoft, something that in my opinion the current board has completely botched. I believe that a combination between Microsoft and Yahoo is by far the most sensible path for both companies. I have therefore taken the following actions: (1) during the last 10 days, I have purchased approximately 59 million shares and share-equivalents of Yahoo; (2) I have formed a 10-person slate which will stand for election against the current board; and (3) I have sought antitrust clearance from the Federal Trade Commission to acquire up to approximately $2.5 billion worth of Yahoo stock. The biographies of the members of our slate are attached to this letter. A more formal notification is being delivered today to Yahoo under separate cover.

While it is my understanding that you do not intend to enter into any transaction that would impede a Microsoft-Yahoo merger, I am concerned that in several recent press releases you stated that you intend to pursue certain “strategic alternatives”. I therefore hope and trust that if there is any question that these “strategic alternatives” might in any way impede a future Microsoft merger you will at the very least allow shareholders to opine on them before embarking on such a transaction.

I sincerely hope you heed the wishes of your shareholders and move expeditiously to negotiate a merger with Microsoft, thereby making a proxy fight unnecessary.

Sincerely yours,


THE REPLY: Bostock to Icahn

Dear Mr. Icahn:

We are in receipt of your letter with regard to your intention to seek control of Yahoo!’s board of directors.

Unfortunately, your letter reflects a significant misunderstanding of the facts about the Microsoft proposal and the diligence with which our board evaluated and responded to that proposal. A fair-minded review of the factual record leads to one conclusion: that Yahoo!’s ten-member board, comprised of nine independent directors along with Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang, remains the best and most qualified group to maximize value for all Yahoo! stockholders.

Conversely, we do not believe it is in the best interests of Yahoo! stockholders to allow you and your hand-picked nominees to take control of Yahoo! for the express purpose of trying to force a sale of Yahoo! to a formerly interested buyer who has publicly stated that they have moved on. Please may I remind you that there is currently no acquisition offer on the table from that company or any other party. That said, we have been crystal clear in our stance that we have been and remain willing to consider any proposal from any party including Microsoft if it offers our stockholders full and certain value.

From the beginning of the process with Microsoft, Yahoo!’s independent directors focused on one central goal: how best to maximize stockholder value. At all times directing this process, Yahoo!’s independent directors carefully considered Microsoft’s initial unsolicited proposal, which was at the time valued at $31 per share. After considering input from its financial advisers the board unanimously concluded that Microsoft’s proposal significantly undervalued Yahoo! and was, therefore, not in the best interests of the company or our stockholders. While we rejected this offer publicly on February 11, 2008, we could not have been more clear in that communication and in every subsequent communication, both public and private, that we were and are willing to enter into any transaction that would maximize value for stockholders and provide them certainty of value.

The record of our efforts to engage Microsoft in meaningful discussions is unequivocal. Following receipt of Microsoft’s proposal on January 31, our board of directors has met over twenty times to review Microsoft’s proposal and Yahoo!’s other strategic alternatives. Throughout this process our board kept an open mind and an open ear. Our independent directors met with several of our largest stockholders to solicit their views and to make it clear that Yahoo!’s independent board is fully committed to maximizing stockholder value. In addition, at the direction of our board, our management team met with many of our investors to provide insight into Yahoo!’s strategy and views on value.

Our board’s openness also extended to Microsoft. Without reciting all of the contacts between us and between our advisers, the senior-most management of Yahoo! and Microsoft and the companies’ respective financial advisers spoke on numerous occasions and met in person seven times. During those meetings, Yahoo! discussed its strategic objectives in search and display advertising monetization, its perspectives on operating strategy and integration in a transaction with Microsoft, its perspectives on transaction synergies, and other non-price deal terms. Because certainty of closing is a critical issue, we sought to understand Microsoft’s thinking with regard to the regulatory issues associated with a potential transaction. In fact, at the board’s direction, our lawyers on March 28 asked for additional information in this regard, information which was never forthcoming.

On April 15th, a meeting was held at Yahoo!’s request. At that meeting, which included our respective financial advisors, we made clear, once again, that we were open to a transaction with Microsoft. During those discussions, Yahoo! made a detailed presentation of its strategic and financial plan, its thoughts on integration and its view with respect to the potential synergies that could be achieved in a transaction, essentially laying the foundation for Microsoft to understand–and respond to–our board’s conclusion that Microsoft’s offer substantially undervalued the company. Following that meeting we also provided to Microsoft a list of key non-price deal terms that our board believed were critical items to be addressed in a deal to provide reasonable protections for our stockholders.

Throughout this period, Microsoft continued to state that it would not raise its offer, and even suggested that it could lower it.

Despite this failure by Microsoft to respond in any substantive way to any of Yahoo!’s requests, on May 2nd, the same day we first learned of Microsoft’s apparent willingness to increase its proposal to $33 (although this oral "offer" was never delivered in writing and did not include details of a cash/stock mix), our board determined to continue discussions, instructing Jerry Yang to indicate to Microsoft that we would be prepared to enter into a transaction that valued Yahoo! at $37 per share and that provided reasonable certainty of value and certainty of closing. This was communicated to Microsoft in-person at a meeting in Seattle on May 3rd. With Microsoft’s offer at $33 and Yahoo!’s counter-proposal at $37, Microsoft elected, within hours, to walk away from the negotiating table and informed us that they were "moving on," having never engaged further on price or any of the key non-price deal terms.

In short, Yahoo!’s board was at every point in this process prepared to enter into a transaction with Microsoft that would maximize stockholder value–and included certainty of value and closing. What Yahoo!’s independent board refused to do was to allow control of this company to be acquired for less than its full value.

That brings us to today. Our business is performing well as evidenced by our first quarter results. As we have publicly stated, our board continues to actively and expeditiously explore strategic alternatives to maximize stockholder value. None of the alternatives we are considering would preclude us from entering into a transaction with Microsoft or any other party.

We continue to believe that Yahoo!’s current board has the independence, the knowledge, and the commitment to navigate the Company through the rapidly changing Internet environment and to deliver value for Yahoo! and its stockholders.

We look forward to a productive dialogue.

Very truly yours,

Roy Bostock
Chairman of the Board


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