Thursday, November 20, 2008

Entrenched CEO 2.0

In The Perils of Having a Passionate Helmsman (Financial Times, 20 November 2008), John Gapper explains what was wrong with Jerry Yang as CEO of Yahoo.
"What he thought was right for Yahoo turned out not to be, and his passion for the enterprise he built, which he thought could flourish independently, was misguided. Sometimes, what a company requires is not a passionate leader but a dispassionate one."
The traditional pattern of the entrenched CEO was an indolent and complacent executive, who built himself mansions at the company's expense (or selling his stock to fund an expensive lifestyle), and spent more time playing golf and schmoozing with politicians than running the company. A recent study suggested this was a strong signal for investors to sell.

"Liu and Yermack discovered important correlations with future company stock performance: The larger and more costly the home, the worse the stock performance. Also, when a CEO liquidates company shares or options to finance a home purchase, even if the sale represents a small share of the CEO's total holdings, it bodes poorly for future company performance." [Knowledge@W.P Carey, May 2007. See also Michael Brush, CEO Mansions, A Stock Indicator (MSN Money, April 2007)]
Yang certainly doesn't fit that pattern. But all the same, the company didn't get rid of him until it was too late. See my post Yahoo Endgame?

Further Reading

Roman Inderst & Holger M. Mueller, Keeping the Board in the Dark: CEO Compensation and Entrenchment (April 2005, pdf)

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