Explaining Southern California's economy

Who is Dan Loeb, the hedge fund guy out for Yahoo CEO's head?

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Yahoo!'s Santa Monica location. Embattled CEO Scott Thompson was caught faking his resume and could resign this week.

It's unclear whether Scott Thompson, the Yahoo CEO who was caught faking his resume last week by activist hedge-fund investor Dan Loeb of Third Point, will stay or go as the latest leader of the embattled Internet giant. The Guardian suggests he could be gone this week. But it also fudges a bit, quoting Colin Gills of BGC Financial, who says that canning Thompson would be a major setback for Yahoo's turnaround plans.

In any case, who is this Dan Loeb, owner of almost 6 percent of Yahoo and a perpetual thorn in the side of the company's management and board?

He's a man who's unafraid to express his outrage, as it turns out. But his vehicle is so old-fashioned that it's almost charming. Last week, he attacked Thompson using the form of communication that predates the Internet, search engines, hedge funds, iPhones, automobiles, indoor plumbing, the United States of America, and sea voyages under sail. That's right, he wrote a...letter.

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As Dan Loeb prepares for proxy battle, things are about to get interesting at Yahoo

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Yahoo!'s Santa Monica location. A shareholder proxy battle may loom.

Recently, Yahoo admitted that it can't come to terms with Dan Loeb, who runs a hedge fund called Third Point that owns a decent percentage of the struggling Internet company and really, really doesn't like where Yahoo is going. Yahoo isn't nuts about Loeb, either — and said so when it revealed that it isn't going to let him gain a seat on the board on directors.

Loeb owns almost six percent of the company and has been making noise for months now about undertaking a proxy battle for control the Yahoo board. He's been extremely un-quiet about what he thinks Yahoo is doing wrong, going so far as to establish a website, valueyahoo.com, which outlines Third Point's case for turning Yahoo around and replacing four board members with its own slate. 

Here's the vision that Loeb & Co have outlined:

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Has Yahoo finally decided to give up on tech and become a media company?

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Yahoo!'s Santa Monica location.

I think Yahoo is unique among current companies for several reasons. First, it's got a foot firmly planted in both Silicon Valley and Southern California — two places with business models that just can't seem to get along (SOPA? PIPA? Hollywood?). And it's been this way for a while, going back to the days when Terry Semel was CEO and Yahoo was looking a lot more like a media company than a tech company. (Yahoo also has an office in New York, which adds yet another wrinkle, as the Big Apple is the capital of media.)

Second, Yahoo still has a huge number of users, some 700 million, but it can't seem to grow its revenue. This has caused great turmoil at the company and no end of speculation about its future. But why does it have so many users? Because it's one of two big holdovers from the Web 1.0 era, before the dotcom crash. The other is AOL. (Microsoft and Amazon are a different story, by the way.) Both companies occupy a lot of Internet mindspace. But no one thinks they have the same potential as Facebook (which, interesting, Yahoo is now suing, and Facebook is suing back).

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Jerry Yang resigns from Yahoo, the tech company that never was

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A Yahoo! billboard is visible through trees in San Francisco, California.

Yahoo co-founder and chairman (and former CEO) Jerry Yang has resigned completely from Yahoo. The Wall Street Journal has a succinct explanation why:

Mr. Yang's exit is the latest chapter for Yahoo and underlines the widening gap between old Internet companies and newer ones. Yahoo was part of an earlier crop of Web companies from the 1990s that helped spark the dot-com boom and came of age as users world-wide began going online.

But after riding that wave, new companies such as Google Inc. and Facebook Inc.—often with younger leaders like 27-year-old Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook—came to prominence with Web technologies such as search and social networking, leaving older firms like Yahoo struggling to catch up.

Those two paragraphs, in their way, explain the precise problem with Yahoo: it isn't a tech company. Rather, it's a media company and always really has been. Yahoo was conceived in the Web 1.0 world of unruly distraction and idealistic alternatives to legacy media, especially television.

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Where will new Yahoo CEO take the company?

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A Yahoo! billboard is visible through trees in San Francisco, California.

Yahoo, the most confused company in media and technology — and more in a second on why "media" and "technology" are why Yahoo is so confused — has named a new CEO. He's Scott Thompson, who comes to Yahoo from PayPal. The big question is, after the disastrous reign of Carol Bartz, a tough-as-nails Silicon Valley leader, does Yahoo need yet another CEO from the land of tech?

Here's the New York Times:

Analysts said one of the first tasks for a new Yahoo C.E.O. would likely be to oversee the sale of its Asian assets.

"If a CEO who’s respected in the Internet industry takes control and gives it a unified vision, that will be very helpful," said Jordan Rohan, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. "The sale of the Asian assets is what happens first and what happens afterwards is just a question of how they deploy the cash they get from the sale."

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