Billionaire investor Carl Icahn is resigning from Yahoo’s board of directors. According to MarketWatch, he said “there was not a need at this time for an activist investor” at Yahoo anymore and that he’d rather focus on other companies. The subtext there being that either A) he feels that his work is done and he can move on now that the search deal with Microsoft is moving towards government approval, or B) he can make more money by trying to control some other company.
Icahn wrestled his way onto Yahoo’s board last year when Jerry Yang was still CEO. Initially, he wanted to try to revive Microsoft’s interest in acquiring Yahoo outright, but when it became clear Microsoft didn’t want to do that deal anymore, he supported the search deal as the best way to move forward.
It’s hard to determine whether Icahn is throwing in the towel on Bartz or this is actually a vote of confidence. If he really believes in where Bartz can take the company after the search deal is done, then you’d think he’d keep his board seat to have a stronger influence on the company’s direction. But Icahn has always been a transaction-oriented investor. He tries to push companies to do things that will move the stock in a big way, and then he takes his profits and he leaves.
More likely than not, Icahn doesn’t see another big shift he can push the company to take that will affect the stock in any major way. And with the stock price moving in the right direction, he probably doesn’t see the need to keep shaking the boat. It is much easier for him to just keep selling his shares (he sold almost $180 million worth in August alone) and move on. With the stock trading at $17, some of Icahn’s shares are still underwater, but he also bought a bunch at $10 last November. At this point, he’ll probably be happy just to get all of his initial investment back, which he is still far from doing.
(Photo by Sam Lustgarten)