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Yahoo board emerges unscathed from annual meeting
Yahoo Shareholders 6399380
Yahoo shareholder Patrick Sheridan carries a Yahoo bag into the Annual Yahoo Stockholders Meeting in San Jose, Calif., Friday, Aug. 1, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    SAN JOSE, Calif. — Yahoo Inc.’s board emerged largely unscathed from the Internet company’s annual meeting Friday as a subdued crowd of shareholders raised few questions about the directors’ rejection of Microsoft Corp.’s $47.5 billion takeover bid.
    After Yahoo’s leadership spent more than an hour defending its handling of the now-withdrawn offer, the company fielded just nine questions from shareholders for about 35 minutes before abruptly adjourning the meeting.
    A significant number of shareholders were expected to express their dissatisfaction by opposing the re-election of Yahoo’s current directors in a largely symbolic gesture. Yahoo didn’t announce the results at the meeting, but promised to release a preliminary tally later Friday.
    Much of the drama was sucked from the meeting last month when Yahoo reached a truce with activist investor Carl Icahn, who had been waging a campaign to oust the company’s entire board for spurning the Microsoft bid.
    Icahn will join Yahoo’s board next week and can’t criticize his fellow directors as part of a peace pact he made. He didn’t attend Friday’s meeting.
    Yahoo will add two other Icahn-endorsed candidates to the board by Aug. 15. Former AOL CEO Jonathan Miller had been considered to be one of the leading candidates to fill the other seats, but he apparently will be precluded from doing so as part of a noncompete agreement that AOL’s owner, Time Warner Inc., plans to enforce.
    The provisions preventing Miller from joining an AOL rival remain in effect through March 2009, Time Warner spokesman Keith Cocozza said Friday.
    Miller has been mentioned as a possible successor to Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang, who has been unable to boost the company’s market value during the first 13 months of his reign.
    Yahoo spokeswoman Diana Wong declined to comment on Miller’s status.
    Only two of the roughly 125 shareholders at Friday’s meeting criticized the Microsoft negotiations. Two other shareholders said they were happy Yahoo didn’t sell to Microsoft.
    The rest of the shareholder remarks covered a wide range of topics, including Yahoo’s human rights policies in China and the scarcity of women on its board.
    Former Yahoo employee Martin Baker, who still owns 100 shares, was mostly upset that the company didn’t carve out more time for shareholder questions.
    ‘‘It seemed like they were more interested in going to lunch than hearing from shareholders,’’ said Baker, a San Francisco resident. ‘‘I think they controlled things pretty well.’’
    Yahoo’s biggest challenge still lays ahead, given that its stock price is just slightly above where it stood six months ago when Microsoft first announced its unsolicited takeover offer.
    The shares fell 9 cents Friday to $19.80, far below the $33 per share that Microsoft offered before withdrawing the bid after Yang sought more in early May.
    Yang, who co-founded Yahoo 14 years ago, assured shareholders his management team is pursuing a turnaround plan in ‘‘a very deliberate and forceful manner.’’ Yang has promised to increase Yahoo’s net revenue by at least 25 percent in each of the next two years.
    Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock staunchly defended the board’s handling of the Microsoft negotiations, saying the directors met more than 30 times to discuss the bid as well as other ways to boost the company’s stock price.
    ‘‘At no point did this board or management in any way ever resist Microsoft’s proposal,’’ Bostock told shareholders. ‘‘We proactively engaged with them and tried to reach a positive conclusion for shareholders.’’
    In a statement, Microsoft asserted that ‘‘Yahoo is attempting to rewrite history yet again with statements that are not supported by the facts.’’
    Eric Jackson, a Yahoo shareholder representing a group of about 150 investors, called upon Bostock to step down, partly because ‘‘overplayed’’ his hand in the Microsoft negotiations.
    Bostock gruffly refused.
    AP Technology Writer Peter Svensson contributed to this story from New York.

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