Yahoo said today it will add the former chief executives of Nextel Partners and Viacom to its board of directors as part of the company's...
SEATTLE — Yahoo said today it will add the former chief executives of Nextel Partners and Viacom to its board of directors as part of the company’s deal to ward off a proxy fight with billionaire investor Carl Icahn.
The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company selected John Chapple, former CEO of Kirkland-based Nextel Partners, and Frank Biondi Jr., former CEO of Viacom, from a list of nine recommendations from Icahn.
Icahn, who has a long history of corporate rabble-rousing, had been pressing Microsoft and Yahoo to renew buyout talks. The New York-based financier acquired 5 percent of Yahoo’s shares and spent two months spearheading a campaign to replace the Internet company’s entire board after it rejected Microsoft’s $47.5 billion takeover bid in May.
A showdown with Icahn had been set to culminate in a shareholder vote at Yahoo’s Aug. 1 annual meeting, but a truce in late July headed it off.
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As part of the deal, Icahn got a seat on the board, and Yahoo agreed to name two others backed by the activist investor. To make way for the new directors, Robert Kotick, chief executive of video game maker Activision Blizzard, stepped down after five years on Yahoo’s board.
None of the three new directors has led a Web company, but together Biondi and Chapple have high-profile content and technology credentials.
Chapple, 55, was CEO of Nextel Partners from 1998 to 2006, when the wireless company was acquired by Sprint Communications. He is currently president of Hawkeye Investments, a private equity firm that focuses on telecom ventures.
Biondi, 63, served as CEO of Viacom from 1987 to 1996. He led Universal Studios until 1998 and is currently senior managing director of WaterView Advisors, a private equity fund specializing in media and entertainment ventures.
Whether Biondi and Chapple could help turn Yahoo around is unclear.
“The fate of Yahoo is not going to change by any addition of these board members,” said Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdry in an interview. “This is a blessing for the competition.”
With Icahn, Biondi and Chapple on board, Chowdry said, Yahoo will suffer from having “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Chowdry said he expects their appointments to result in strategic plotting and restructuring that would simply give Microsoft and Google more space to grow stronger.