Yahoo! has cranked out corporate drama for the better part of its decade-long slide. So consider Carol Bartz’s Sept. 6 exit the company’s equivalent of MacBeth—grueling, emotional, bloody, and riveting. In two meetings held over the summer, the company’s eight independent directors concluded that the chief executive officer should go after 30 months on the job. Roy Bostock, Yahoo’s chairman, scheduled a meeting with Bartz in a New York area airport to deliver the bad news, but stormy weather intervened, according to a person familiar with the day’s events. Bostock was forced to fire her by phone. A few minutes later, Bartz, widely known as an expressive and sometimes volatile executive, sent an e-mail to Yahoo’s 13,000 employees. “I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s chairman,” she wrote. “It has been my pleasure to work with all of you.” Shortly afterward, the company disabled her account.
Bartz’s two-year transition from savior to outcast sums ups Yahoo’s own transformation over the last decade. The company, one of the dominant players of the Web 1.0 era, has struggled to retain its employees, expand its core business, and even find an identity. (Whether it’s a media or a technology company is a constantly debated question.) Now, more than three years after it turned down a lucrative acquisition offer from Microsoft, Sunnyvale (Calif.)-based Yahoo is facing yet another crisis. The company has appointed Chief Financial Officer Tim Morse as interim CEO and is planning to hire strategic advisers to study its next move. That is likely to involve selling its valuable stakes in two highflying Asian Internet companies, Alibaba and Yahoo! Japan, instead of putting the company up for sale, according to a person directly familiar with the thinking of the Yahoo board who is not authorized to speak on the record.