Terry Semel: A Man Of Few Words (On Yahoo)

Last week The Globes’ Noa Pereg interviewed ex-Yahoo CEO Terry Semel (he resigned in June 2007) Shimon Peres’ “President’s Conference” in Israel. Also on the panel was Sergey Brin, Susan Decker, Rupert Murdoch and Yossi Vardi.

Parag dug to try to get something juicy out of Semel on the Microsoft/Yahoo battle (this was right as Carl Icahn was making his effort to replace the Yahoo board public). The original interview is in Hebrew, but here are some of the translated highlights:

Parag: But you personally believe that Yahoo is worth more than $44B?

Semel: That question should be directed at Yahoo’s new managers. To Jerry Yang. They seem to think it’s worth more.

Parag: What’s your opinion about Icahn? It is an attempt to coup the Board of Directors?

Semel: I read about that as well. Icahn is very talented and intelligent, but I don’t know what intentions stand behind the stock buying.

At this point Semel requests to stop the interview for a moment. All these questions about Microsoft are making him feel uncomfortable, and he announces: “I’m not going to talk about the deal. Who should be talking about it is Yang or Susan Decker, the president. Certainly not me.”

Semel also says his departure was based on personal reasons:

Semel: When I began working in Yahoo, my family moved with me. Despite our efforts, our kids wanted to study in Los Angele, and I was forced to see my family and friends only on weekends. In the beginning I even enjoyed it, but knew that at some stage I’d want to go back home. At the time, the people that founded it wanted to get back to it, and that was the right opportunity to go back home and look for new opportunities.

On speculation that his exit was forced:

Semel: These rumors are not true. I told the Board several months in advance that I was going to announce my departure soon, and that I want to set out in a new direction. They offered that I stay as Chairman, and I did agree for a certain time, but at the end felt that I prefer to be an active player than a mentor. It was the right time for me to leave.

On Facebook’s valuation:

Parag: Is Facebook in your opinion worth $15 billion? Are these prices even logical?

Semel: I have no opinion about it. This is something Microsoft needs to decide on.

On future plans:

Parag: So what is Semel doing these days?

Semel: I’m busy mostly with in searching for interesting companies in order to purchase and invest in, and I’m certain that they’ll be heard of in the coming years. I also have time to play golf and do some sports.