Carol Bartz, the former Yahoo chief executive fired by the company last week, has left Yahoo’s board of directors amid rumours that AOL is seeking a merger.
Last Tuesday Yahoo’s board of directors removed Bartz – apparently via telephone – and named chief financial officer Tim Morse as her interim replacement.
In an interview with Fortune on Thursday Bartz (pictured) said she planned to remain on Yahoo’s board of directors.
The move came on the heels of uncomplimentary comments about the board in Bartz’s Fortune interview.
“The board was so spooked by being cast as the worst board in the country,” Bartz said in the interview. “Now they’re trying to show that they’re not the doofuses that they are… these people f****d me over.”
Bartz’s anger appears not to have been soothed by a severance package estimated at $14 million (£8m) by Wall Street Journal reporter Amir Efrati over the weekend.
That sum would admittedly be relatively low by Silicon Valley standards – Mark Hurd left HP with a package of nearly $40m after stock options last year, while his predecessor Carly Fiorina netted $42m upon her departure.
Meanwhile, AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong is investigating the possibility of a Yahoo merger, according to a Bloomberg report citing two unnamed sources.
Armstrong discussed the matter with private equity firms and with Allen & Co., an investment bank helping Yahoo examine its strategic options, according to the report. Armstrong reportedly contacted Yahoo last year about a merger but was rejected under Bartz’s leadership.
AOL merged with Time Warner in 2000 but was spun off into a separate company in 2009. Previously the world’s largest provider of Internet access, the company has seen a steadily declining subscriber base since 2002.
Most recently the company has been in the process of redefining itself as a content provider – somewhat like Yahoo, in fact – with recent acquisitions in this area including The Huffington Post and TechCrunch.
For its part, Yahoo in 2008 repelled an attempted takeover by Microsoft but that spawned the Microsoft Bing search engine in 2009, shortly after Bartz was appointed. Bing was formed from Microsoft Live Search and overtook Yahoo within days of its launch – but Bartz dismissed this as a temporary surge as users tried the new application.
This was not the case and within weeks Yahoo hitched itself to Bing in a mutual melding of technologies and shared services to compete with Google. Yahoo rebranded in September 2009 but this did little to improve its market position.
Bartz’s departure was the second announcement of a change at the chief executive level at a major IT company in the last two weeks. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs announced his departure on 24 August.
It was also the third major news story in a month involving upheaval at long-established, leading IT companies. On 18 August, Hewlett-Packard revealed a strategic change in direction by dropping its personal computing and webOS hardware businesses and acquiring enterprise software provider Autonomy for $11 billion (£7bn).
Eric Doyle contributed to this report.
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