Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang has a lot to worry about these days. Activist shareholder Carl Icahn wants to toss his board. Microsoft is playing hard ball. Large investors are angry. Google is the Web darling. What's next? The body language police.
Yang and Yahoo president Sue Decker took the stage at the D6 conference (Techmeme) and it was pretty apparent that there wasn't going to be a whole lot of revealing moments. Of course Yang needs more time. Of course Yahoo has a lot of eyeballs. Of course Yahoo is undervalued. Of course Yahoo has shareholder interests in mind and would take a Microsoft buyout if the software giant would just pony up more cash.
We've heard all of that before. Dan Farber sums things up:
Yang mostly reiterated what has been said in the public letters going back and forth between Microsoft and Yahoo. On the current state of negotiations, Yang said, "As companies are positioned we have to understand more of what they are proposing to us. We are doing our best to understand Microsoft's interest."
And Yang added.
"We are willing to do a deal under the right terms. It wasn't clear to me they wanted to finish the deal. I can't go revisit and take or not take it. I understand our obligation to stockholders from conversations with a number of them. The focus for us is how do we recognize more value for the company soon and position Yahoo to be much more successful in the long term. If there is a way to do it, we'll talk about other alternatives, but we aren't going to do something short term."
Well that's no fun. Where's the angst? Where's the big moment where Yang walks across the stage and hugs Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer and signs a deal right on stage?
At this point, the messengers at D6 have two choices--play it straight or make a leap or two. Enter the body language police.
TechCrunch's Michael Arrington concludes that Yang is done. He's giving the company line, but his body language says the company is toast. Kaput. Over. Just close up shop and quit.
This is the definition of a defensive crouch: Explaining, over and over again, that you're not in a defensive crouch. We're not sure that given the circumstances, anyone in Jerry Yang's position could have come off well at the D conference today. Jerry certainly didn't: He struggled to articulate what he wanted to do with the company, but blamed the press for not paying attention to his plans. Asked why he should lead the company, he argued that while he didn't have that much experience, he "bleeds purple".
So Yang arguably had a tough outing, but somehow the more body blows this guy takes the more I want to root for him. Strange how that works.
In any case, I'm no body language expert. Yang didn't do any Karate Kid type defensive crouches. And he didn't look any shiftier than any other CEO. I did notice that he changed his sitting position a few times but that may have just been because he was sitting on his wallet.
But don't take my word for it. Luckily the fine folks at AllthingsD provided some video. You decide for yourself.
And Part 2.