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雅虎该如何走向复兴

Kevin Kelleher 2012年05月18日

“学历门”使雅虎陷入了18年历史上最悲惨的日子,但从另一方面来看,这可能也是这家互联网老店背水一战绝地逢生的好机会。那么,雅虎该如何做呢?

    雅虎(Yahoo)CEO的“学历门”已告尘埃落定,对雅虎的伤害已经造成。一向麻烦缠身的雅虎董事会这次输在事先没有好好审查这位前途无量的CEO的简历。现在雅虎能做的只有收拾残局继续前进。不过这究竟意味着什么?雅虎怎样才能走出眼下的困境?

    当然,眼下需要雅虎收拾的烂摊子不少。雅虎近年来像走马灯似的更换CEO,他们一个个信心十足地来,转眼又垂头丧气地走。雅虎股票与2006年的最高值时相比已经下跌了64%,而且它的广告收入也正在被Facebook和谷歌(Google)步步蚕食。更重要的是,一直以来,雅虎董事会一直昏招不断,做出的决策只会使事情变得更糟。

    2012年,雅虎原本希望新CEO斯科特•汤普森能带领公司走向未来。汤普森具有领导易趣(eBay)贝宝(PayPal)支付平台的成功经验,因此他打算把雅虎的发展重点从在线广告转移到电子商务和数据分析上。这是一个非常大胆和另类的发展战略,而且说不定能够成功。不过后来维权投资者第三点基金(Third Point)却在一份雅虎向证监会(SEC)提交的股东委托书中披露了汤普森的学历造假。从第三点基金“棒打鸳鸯”之日起,不到一个星期,汤普森就离开了雅虎。

    “学历门”事件使雅虎陷入了自从微软(Microsoft)撤回31美元每股的收购邀约以来最黑暗的时候——现在甚至也可能是雅虎18年历史上最悲惨的日子。不过老话说“黎明前总有黑暗”,这话对雅虎来说也不乏一些道理。虽说雅虎也许还会迎来更黑暗的时候,不过让我们现在暂且不去想它。如果雅虎能够做出正确的决策,那么它有没有可能转“危”为“机”,使公司绝地逢生,变得更强大呢?

    要想实现这个目标,雅虎必须做出一些艰难的决定,冒一些大风险,还需要不小的智慧。

    第一步就是尽量满足第三点基金的要求。这一点看起来是不可避免的,因为现在雅虎董事会中有三名董事都是第三点基金推荐的,其中就包括第三点基金的CEO丹尼尔•洛布本人——他也是雅虎的眼中钉和肉中刺。洛布提出了整改雅虎的九项要点。除了其中的几项涉及重大变革之外,总体看来,洛布的九大要点就像一个建筑师在餐巾纸上画的建筑草图一样,难逃“心血来潮”之嫌。

    第三点基金强烈呼吁雅虎将旗下的阿里巴巴(Alibaba)和雅虎日本等亚洲资产出手变现。虽然如果雅虎继续持有这些资产,它们的价值可能会继续增长,不过第三点基金认为,现在雅虎已经到了放弃它们的时候,把变现的资金用来投资那些才华横溢的网络初创公司,这可能会为雅虎品牌带来第二春。

    The train wreck is over. The damage has been done. Yahoo's perennially troubled board failed to vet the resume of a once-promising CEO. All the company can do now is pick up the pieces and move on. But what exactly does that mean? How does Yahoo move on from here?

    Certainly, there is no shortage of wreckage to move on from: Yahoo's (YHOO) CEO suite has been a revolving door of leaders. Each enters hopeful and exits defeated. The stock has lost 64% of its value since its January 2006 peak. Facebook and Google (GOOG) have been eating Yahoo's ad-revenue lunch. And the whole time, Yahoo's board has floundered in complacency, making the easy decisions that only made things worse.

    Yahoo began 2012 with hope that its brand-new CEO Scott Thompson had what it took to push the company into the future. Thompson's success leading eBay's (EBAY) PayPal unit inspired him to steer the company away from online ads and toward e-commerce and data analysis. It was a strategy bold and unorthodox enough that it just might work. Then activist investor Third Point uncovered a falsehood in a Thomson bio included in a Yahoo proxy statement filed with the SEC. Third Point used it as a thug would wield a cudgel. Within a week, Thompson was gone.

    That has plunged Yahoo into its darkest hour since Microsoft (MSFT) withdrew its $31-a-share takeover bid -- perhaps even the bleakest moment of its 18-year history. And yet, those old comforting chestnuts like "it's always darkest before the dawn" may have some truth in them for Yahoo. It could easily get even darker for the one-time web giant, but let's not think about that right now. What if the chaos that is shaking the company could -- if the right decisions are made -- make it stronger?

    It would take some hard decisions, big risks and a good deal of cunning.

    The first step would be giving Third Point much of what it wants. That seems all but inevitable, now that Yahoo's board seats three of Third Point's recommended directors, including the firm's own Daniel Loeb -- until now Yahoo's gadfly-in-chief. Loeb outlined his "solutions" for Yahoo in nine tidy bullet points. But except for a few significant changes -- clearly, his true agenda -- Loeb's plan is as specific as an architect's blueprint drawn on a cocktail napkin.

    ThirdPoint was most specific when it clamored for Yahoo to cash out of its Asian assets like Alibaba and Yahoo Japan. While the value of these assets could increase if Yahoo holds onto them, it's time for Yahoo to give them up and use that money to invest in select investments of talented web startups that could provide the foundation for the second act of the Yahoo brand.

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