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Full transcript: Yahoo activist investor Eric Jackson on Recode Decode

“People have been saying Yahoo is a dinosaur for 10 years. They were saying that in 2006, 2007.”

On a recent episode of Recode Decode, longtime Yahoo activist investor Eric Jackson spoke with Recode’s Kara Swisher about why Yahoo had to sell its core business to Verizon.

You can read some of the highlights from their discussion at that link, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

Transcript by Celia Fogel.


Kara Swisher: Today in the Red Chair is Eric Jackson, managing director of SpringOwl Asset Management. He previously founded Ironfire Capital but is probably best known as the activist investor in Yahoo, which just sold to Verizon for $4.8 billion. Time magazine called him Yahoo's loudest critic, but we'll see about that, because really that is my title. Eric is joining us from his office in Toronto. Eric, welcome to the show.

Eric Jackson: Hey, Kara, great to be here.

Thank you for coming on at such short notice. We really want to talk about Yahoo because a lot of people are still interested in this deal and you've been one of the people that's been pushing this. But let's talk a little bit about our history of where we met. We met at a Yahoo annual meeting, if I recall. Is that correct?

Yeah, I think it was 2007.

Yeah.

I remember you still had a flip phone at the time.

I did, and I did a flip phone interview at the time. A flip camera interview. So talk about, you were a big Yahoo proponent and I was a critic back then because I thought they were sort of running it into the wall over and over again and it was painful to watch. Talk a little bit about your involvement with Yahoo so people get a sense of how long you've been around, besides me covering this.

Well, yeah, it's been like almost 10 years, so I mean I guess it's been 10 years. Ten years ago I wrote a blog post. I started a blog back in 2006 and I was writing about kind of mundane stuff related to management and governance and I was doing management consulting at the time, and I just happened to write about Terry Semel at Yahoo and I asked a question about whether Yahoo's success at that point was due to Terry Semel or was more in spite of Terry Semel. And for me anyway, back then I remember getting like tons of comments and reactions, and most of the people who reacted were ex- or current Yahoo employees. And so I had followed the company a little bit from afar. I worked in tech before, so I had some dealings with Yahoo. Most of the people at Yahoo that I had experience with coming out of the dot-com crash, they seemed a little bit full of themselves, at least back then.

Welcome to Silicon Valley.

But I was really surprised at just how strong their reaction was, and it just made me curious in the company. I knew about activists and investing, you know, from back in grad school, and I met some activist investors back then, and some corporate governance professors and such. And you know, the lightning struck and I thought, you know, Yahoo would be an amazing candidate for an activist investor because at that time it still was a great brand. It had huge traffic, and yet Terry was doing a lot of good things, but they were also fumbling and they had just missed out on Facebook and all that. So I became more interested, became an activist in 2007 and kind of have never really left, with rare exceptions.

So what attracted you to this company in particular? Just because it was an iconic Silicon Valley company?

Just the thing that stands out is that for 10 years now it seemed to have so much potential, and it's almost consistently never been able to live up to that potential.

It's like a kid that you know is talented but never seems to break out, is still sitting on the couch eating donuts kind of thing.

Yeah and so, you know, the news that it sold to Verizon, in a lot of ways it's really struck me as sad because I think of the great people that I've gotten a chance to meet through the years who maybe have heard about me rabble rousing about Yahoo and then reached out and we've started chatting about the company, and it's just stunning how many great, talented people have worked there, and yet they've always seemed to do their best when they leave Yahoo.

We'll get to that in a second. Let's talk about your background. So you were long Yahoo forever, correct?

Yeah.

And you were still long Yahoo at the end?

Yes.

But you were a critic but not a critic. You liked Marissa Mayer, for example — we'll get to her. You were a critic for Terry and Carol? Or, I don't remember actually when you turned. Because there was a point that you turned and decided to agree with my good sense.

[laughs] I was always a critic of the company. The board and whoever the CEO was, they always seemed to be kind of doing, you know, this sort of lax job, just not moving as fast as they should be, not taking advantage of all the opportunities. So I was critical of Terry and Carol. In hindsight I think sometimes unfairly because I came to kind of respect a lot more things that they did over time. And especially as the CEOs went on, they didn't seem so bad after a while. And then there was this crazy period with Tim Morse as the interim CEO and Scott Thompson and all this — Ross for a time, where nobody was really in charge. So when Marissa came in, I was very supportive of Dan Loeb, and Dan Loeb effectively with Michael Wolf …

Explain who he is. He's a very big activist investor.

So he was a big activist. I had been long Yahoo, involved in Yahoo. I got really excited in 2010 because I think I was over in Hong Kong when you were doing a conference over there and I happened to meet Joe Tsai, who at the time was the CFO of Alibaba — and Alibaba back then was private, it was only worth about $10 billion, Yahoo owned 40 percent of it from a 2005 deal — and in meeting him, I just became much more appreciative of just how big Alibaba was going to be. So that was the main reason why I was so excited, but Dan came along …

For context for people, Jerry Yang and Terry Semel and Dan Rosensweig and Sue Decker were all part of buying that large piece of Alibaba. They had tried to go into China, it didn't work, and they decided instead to invest in a promising Chinese startup called Alibaba.

Yeah, and you know, people like to harp about all the mistakes Yahoo's made over the years …

Greatest trade ever.

You know, one smart move kind of can make up for a lot of dumb ones, and that was the home run of home runs for Yahoo and Yahoo shareholders. But Dan Loeb was an activist and investor …

A loud one.

He was a loud one. He came on the scene in 2011 when Carol was still CEO. The board actually pushed Carol out before Dan formally announced himself as an activist, and then they started fighting with Dan and there was a proxy contest and from my opinion, Dan was saying all the right things, doing all the right things. He sort of unveiled that Yahoo's temporary CEO, or their pick for CEO, Scott Thompson, had fibbed about part of his resume. And he was gone. Dan suddenly swooped in and was put on the board. And one of the first things that he did with someone who worked with them, Michael Wolf, was hire Marissa to the surprise of many people, because it seemed like Ross Levinsohn, who was the interim CEO, was sort of in line to take that spot and it was a big surprise hire. And I knew about as much about Marissa as most people, which was just sort of the view from afar.

Star CEO.

Yeah, and you know, I was supportive of Dan and I thought that this was a commitment by an activist investor to the long run of the company because basically they were sending a message that we believe in new product development, this is the path to do it, and Marissa is the person to do it. And so I wanted to be supportive.

So you were very supportive. It was interesting because you and I would have a back and forth ... I had covered her and her tenure at Google and I had seen a different side of this particular executive, and all Google executives. I think they get buoyed by being at Google and everybody gets this sort of, you know, extra special polish because they're at Google and it doesn't mean that once they remove themselves from that paradise they do well.

Yeah, and if I remember ... and to be fair to you, I think really honestly, Kara, you were the only person who was, you weren't negative about her but you were skeptical. I guess you were realistic. You were still like, well, hey. I mean it was almost universal applause, that was the reaction, everybody was like, "I can't believe they got her! Wow, this is fantastic!" That was the general consensus. All these people now within the last few days, people like Chris Mims and Farhad Manjoo and Dan Primack who now say, "Oh well, it was destined to fail, it was a melting ice cube, what do you expect?" Nobody was saying that at the time.

No, not at all. And in fact I wasn't either because I felt like it was not. It was a perfect opportunity to revive it right then. It had the money from Alibaba, it had someone who had a lot of credibility and great PR, by the way. Do you remember the first thing you wrote about her?

I don't remember the first thing, I don't know if you do. I do remember being very supportive, and I think maybe part of the things that we maybe had Twitter battles over at the time was, you know, one thing that I thought was important and would have been important for any CEO coming in at that position at that time was that Yahoo, it was going to be a tough slog for anyone to turn around that company.

Absolutely.

And so I thought it was important to set expectations and, you know, you gotta give the person a chance to really show what they can do.

But at the time, again, do you feel that when she came in that it was too far gone or that it was an opportunity? To me, when they owned an enormous asset in Alibaba they had goodwill, they had a lot of great products, still a lot of great executives there.

I don't think it was too far gone. I mean, even now I don't think it's too far gone. I am really intrigued to see what Tim and Marnie and everyone else at Verizon can do. But I disagree with this idea that it was ... people have been saying Yahoo is a dinosaur for 10 years. They were saying that in 2006 and 2007. And people put it in a box, so …

Most people felt this was a sad end to a famous company. Eric, how do you feel about the deal? Talk a little bit more about the deal and what led up to it.

I think Verizon got a good deal. I mean, I think most people assume that the real estate value alone for Yahoo is kind of minimum $750 million to $1 billion, so when you back that out of the deal, you're talking about buying all of Yahoo core for less than $4 billion. If you told anyone that four years ago, I don't think anyone would have believed it. I mean Yahoo, I think in 2011 they did something like a billion and a half in Ebitda, which is profit. And you know the way that this company is valued is usually a multiple of profit, so you know most people back then would have said this thing is worth $10-15 billion.

So let's talk about how it got to this. Because at the time everyone felt like Marissa was going to turn it around, it became much more valuable, the Alibaba stake certainly helped that, it added value to the company. But let's talk about the core business. Because I think pulling away the Asian assets is kind of deceptive when you talk about those things as they're separate, and it's nothing Yahoo did to make it so. It just exists somewhere else. It's just like owning a nice piece of real estate or something else. And again we don't want to ... right now Yahoo's going to be split into two parts, which we'll talk about in a second. But talk about the promise of what she did at the beginning. How did you look at her various moves, and where did Marissa Mayer go wrong?

Someone asked me, "What was her biggest accomplishment?" You know, it's honestly really difficult to point to some acquisition or new product or specific thing that she did. You know the one thing that comes to mind when I think of her are those first maybe four or five months when she was on the job. Just how much hope there was within the company. And I was sort of outside of the company but it was palpable and it was real and I think it was …

Gave them iPhones and free food. I thought that was just silly. I know you all went crazy for that but it seemed to be table stakes to me in Silicon Valley.

Yeah, so I think the biggest thing looking back now, and what I wish I had been more vocal about earlier ... she was a first-time CEO obviously. I think she wasn't a good manager. I think there were a number of mistakes that she made just in terms of how she managed people. You know, setting the strategy. The strategy wasn't really articulated. She had a lot of direct reports.

Twenty-six at one point, or some number like that.

Yeah, and that's just, that's impossible, you know. And it speaks to an overconfidence in yourself, I guess. And it slows down decision making when you have so many direct reports that have to get sign-off from the boss to do certain things. So it just slowed things down. The M&A, you know, it's very difficult to point to any acquisition.

It was 52 acquisitions including Tumblr, which was their biggest. 52? Which is, you know, even Cisco didn't work at that pace, which is famous for acquisitions.

And none that you could say ... well, you know, with Tim Armstrong at AOL, he had some misses but there were some deals that were successes, and I think had there been ... I mean, that would be the other thing is that it didn't appear that she really followed ... one thing managers try to do is sort of set low expectations and sort of have key wins along the way to give, both internally and externally, to give this feeling like momentum. And it appeared to me anyway that there weren't these kind of easy wins along the way and so the goals were very far off. There was this constant promise about this is where we gotta do this, we gotta invest in the MAVENs. We inherited this difficult situation with a PC-based business, we gotta invest in the future. Which is all true but there weren't signs of progress along the way.

Facebook was in the same position. It was a web-based business at the same time and shifted over rather beautifully, I think.

In 2012 too, by the way. At the beginning of 2012, when Facebook was initially on its IPO roadshow, there was this concern amongst investors that they couldn't make that switch. And basically over the summer, they did. Yet to hear some of her comments now, it's almost like …

I'm fascinated by that; it's super hard. They always go, you know, and I'm like, I thought you were geniuses. I'm sorry. You keep saying you're geniuses and yet it's super hard, which is interesting. And of course everyone gets paid rather well. What did you [think of] the strategy around acquisitions, buying stuff and creating innovation by buying everybody up? And then assuming something will happen. That's proven not to have worked.

No, and it's … now looking back it seems like something out of the "Silicon Valley" show, right? Where you have all these, like "we gotta get the talent" was the mantra at the time. Just get them in the door, and you know, we only had two dozen people working on mobile when I showed up. And yet you would hear these stories that basically people were just sort of sticking around, resting and vesting, and then they were out the door, and then they were gone. So yeah, it didn't seem to be sticking and there didn't seem to be any internal products that were being developed that really were showing that this was the future for Yahoo. And that was her cachet coming in. She was heralded as this great product person.

Meanwhile Snapchat's doing its thing, Whatsapp, all kinds of things are being invented elsewhere. Which was interesting.

I mean the other puzzling thing is you sort of think of Google and people at Google as almost like robots and kind of making decisions based on hard data and algorithms. And yet her management style and decision making seemed to be more intuitive, gut. If she liked you, you were sort of in and there were these big hires, obviously with Katie Couric and Joe Zee and Bobbi Brown and all those kind of stuff.

What did you think of the media strategy, such that it was? It felt a little old-school to me. That's what I wrote at the time.

Yeah, it seemed like she kind of, you know, morphed away from it at first and then came back to it. And a lot of ways …

Because Yahoo was well known for its media, you know Yahoo Finance, Yahoo very successful sports and all kinds of things.

And they were pro partnerships. Pushing the same kind of deals that Ross Levinsohn had done before he left. So yeah, again it was haphazard. I mean the head count went up and then finally it went down. So there did seem to be a lot of changing course along the way.

And what about search? How did you ... when she moved into search rather aggressively at a great cost.

I mean, obviously the decision to get out of search was several years before she showed up. So she was in the situation where they'd outsourced it to Bing and even though she wanted to ... I think she ideally would've liked to have done something internally. I think it was very difficult. But she persisted, and so just in the last couple of years when I have definitely been very, very critical of her, I couldn't understand sort of this quixotic focus on Project Index.

It's what she knew, right? It's what she knew when she was working at Google.

Yeah, and according to one interview I saw of one of her deputies who was the head of it last year, it was one of the largest project teams at Yahoo.

Absolutely. Enrique Torres, right? Who hadn't managed that many people at Google. Again which I pointed out, and everyone was like "that's mean." It's like, okay, all right, he managed a small amount of people and now a thousand. It's a big quantum leap of ability, it seems to me. Although a very talented engineer and smart guy. So we're going to talk a little bit more about this deal but I want to talk about where it's going. Obviously when you look at the Marissa Mayer era, how will it be assessed? I know there is this meme like "oh, it was impossible to fix, she couldn't have done it." I feel as if she made a number of serious moves. Sort of like, you know, you have a house and it's a rundown house in a very good neighborhood and lots of things aren't working but they persisted in creating even more problems for the house rather than fixing it.

No question. She definitely shot herself in the foot on multiple occasions. I think if she had come in — and this wasn't just my idea; Marc Andreessen said this to Sarah Lacy, I think, days after Marissa was hired, that she should fire something like 10,000 people. Because I think, including contractors at the time when she showed up, there was something like 16,000 people at Yahoo. Had she done that, she basically would have seemed a lot more profitable for a lot longer than she did and it would have bought her more time, it would have given her an opportunity to do more things. She was in such a honeymoon period at the time, nobody would have blinked about it. So I think, yeah, she didn't do that and the things that she did seem to emphasize, they just didn't pan out.

When did you turn? What made you turn? Was it when Dan left? Or what was the ... he got out and took his money.

Well, there are lots of people in Silicon Valley who've got great reputations and sometimes you scratch your head and you wonder, is there substance there or is this just spin or buzz and stuff? You know, if you're on the outside, you don't want to make premature judgments on people and I think, you know, I thought she did deserve the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity to really …

But what turned you, because you turned rather sharply.

I think it was in the middle of the second year of her tenure. So, this would have been 2013, I guess. Stock was doing great and everybody was like, "She's fantastic!" And yet it was only because of Alibaba going up that the stock was going up. And just some of the stories that I had heard trickling out internally about how things were done. Like it was, it sort of gave me concern, like what is the strategy here? What are the accomplishments? Where is the evidence that the core is really turning? And I just felt like if you sit on your hands more and you don't speak up, I mean the chances are nothing's going to change. And having been involved with Yahoo at that point for whatever it was, eight years, I knew what that movie looked like. So I just felt that it was important to start speaking up.

And you did rather significantly. You put reports out and things like that. Explain your report that you did, which I thought was terrific.

Yeah, we put out a 99-page report …

Why 99, not 100? I'm teasing you.

You know, it was just kind of pure luck. And then for some reason people liked that number so …

Ninety-nine! 99! Anyway, go ahead.

[laughs] We did a 99-pager on Viacom later, so I think everything's going to be 99, like the dollar store or something. We put it out in December and again, back then there was no sign that Yahoo was going to sell itself. And a lot of people in the senior management team had left in kind of September/October. And there were these rumors that Marissa had asked them to sign a pledge or something.

Not rumors! I reported that. It was perfectly true, Eric.

Which seemed too bizarre to me.

Working my ass off for you people. Giving you information.

Well, I thought that was truly bizarre, and I just, you know, it seemed like a case had to be made about why change was necessary. And at that time there were a lot of Wall Street investors who I would talk to, who were of the opinion "just sell the company." And sell it at any price. I remember one guy told me, "I don't care about the core business, sell it for a dollar!" Like, I hope that they sell it, it'll kind of push them down the road of monetizing their Alibaba stake and the Yahoo Japan stake, and that's where the real money is.

So unlock the value is what they were looking for.

Right, and you know, what was puzzling to me is that the profits of the company just kept going down quarter after quarter and yet there were still over 10,000 people working there. And it seemed kind of crazy that somebody would probably end up buying this company with so many people working there and probably they would make the tough decisions then and refocus and kind of eliminate redundant positions. And then suddenly the profits would go up, but it would be after they'd paid their money. And so the Yahoo shareholders today would kind of miss out on that. The buyer would gain from that. So we tried to make the case for why Yahoo should really start to make some of these tough choices themselves and cut costs and eliminate things like Davos sponsorships.

They liked a Davos sponsorship.

Yeah, so no more Met Ball, sponsorships and all this kind of stuff that was going on. So we talked about the M&A. I went through kind of doing, I had to research 52 deals that you talked about. Like what was reported that they had bought them for and what the earnouts were and try to tally it up. And it came out to just under $3 billion that they had spent on these different acquisitions. So we just put everything, tied a bow around it and put it in the presentation.

And your recommendation was?

Was to make some changes, probably replace the CEO, make some of these tough calls about reducing the headcount, and try to increase the value of the company for the benefit of the shareholders. And so it didn't really work out that way, but I think a few weeks later they started announcing that they were going to make some cuts, that there was news ... somebody had told me ahead of time about a big, extravagant holiday party that Yahoo had just put on. It made mention of that. And then subsequently there were ...

Photos.

Somebody did a big expose on the Instagram photos from the party and all this kind of stuff. So you know, actually, the criticism of the free food and all that stuff, in some ways it was a turning point for not just Yahoo but I think all the unicorn companies where …

Sure. I think a little of that was bullshit and entirely sexist, in my opinion. All of that stuff around her. I think focusing on her clothes and things like that seemed ridiculous. I was focused more on the business itself. And what was interesting is everyone who had been such a cheerleader on the way, especially media, suddenly became really tsk-tsk-y about her sitting on a chair and taking pictures, which I thought was not really the point. And it's fine to criticize them for the financial performance — the other stuff seemed just a little bit ridiculous.

Yeah, and to be clear, we certainly didn't do that. And there has been a lot of dumb criticism over the years and her Vogue photo shoot or whatever, and all that kind of stuff.

Well, I think that was probably something she shouldn't have done, but she wanted to, so whatever. In any case, in that time period, an activist investor, another one, a big one, showed up: Starboard Value, which had already attacked AOL and gotten some concessions from them. Was that really when it turned? When they had to change the way they were going to spin off Alibaba and other things? Is that really when the shit hit the fan?

Yeah, it was a surprise because Starboard had been an activist a year before. And in fact I'd reached out to Starboard I guess in the summer of 2014 and made the pitch to them about why Yahoo was, I thought, still a great, attractive company and undervalued. And they came, they went public in September of 2014 with their criticisms, but then it seemed like Marissa kind of fended them off. Because even though there were possibilities that they might do a proxy fight, they decided not to and they seemed to go away and it seemed like they were selling their stake down, so preparing to kind of get out of it entirely. And then suddenly they came back in January. And so there's no question that they put enormous pressure on — and in the fall kind of leading up to that — but they put more pressure on the company to take action, and I think with the other criticisms that were out there, I think there was enough discontent that the board had to start listening.

Let's finish this up talking about this deal now. So when the process happened and the different buyers started to enter it, were you surprised that this is the way that it went, that they had to do this; did they have to sell?

I just felt like at this point, even though when we put out our report, ideally we would have liked to have seen the turnaround happen independently and as a shareholder kind of participate in the comeback, I think the company was on such a track that I think it was better to sell it now, even at this price.

She had another turnaround plan. She had talked about that.

Yeah, and so I much prefer this outcome to that.

Because why?

I just think it's better. I wasn't at all interested in waiting around to see the results of Project Index.

Right. And do you think this deal was ... there were several bidders, there were many people interested in it. Dan Gilbert's Quicken Loans Group was interested, TPG, a private equity firm, and several others were interested. AT&T was interested. Many of the bidders fell by the wayside during the process. It came down to two or three decent offers. But many people think it's quite low for what Yahoo was. Or maybe not.

I was surprised it wasn't higher. Although as you're reporting on things like the Mozilla clause and all this kind of stuff, and the accelerated RSUs and the buyer was going to have to pay out to the employees …

Did you like that Mozilla clause story?

Ech. [laughs] It’s just like, when you hear about these different gotchas, I could understand, and the business was deteriorating, it was just going down. But I still was surprised. This process took so long. I mean it started maybe seven months ago and at the beginning I think the initial talk was like, ohh, I think it's worth $4-6 billion.

Six to eight.

And you hope it goes up over time, not down.

So do you think that AOL's gotten a real deal? And where do you think it's going to go? We'll finish up talking about that. Where do you think it's going now?

I've got enormous respect for Tim. Because I remember when it was 2011 in the summer and he was, I think the stock was around 10 bucks a share, the AOL stock, and everybody was talking about all the drama at Huff Post and Arrington at TechCrunch and, you know, people were thinking that he bit off too much to chew. And then there was this activist, Starboard showed up and ever since then, I mean, he has made a series of really deft moves, selling the AOL patents, getting the stock up to over 40 bucks, selling it to Verizon in the last year. He hasn't been perfect, he's made mistakes, but now he's basically taken over Yahoo, when a couple of years ago people, including me, would chuckle at this notion of AOL and Yahoo merging. And I would say, "Merging?!"

So did Marissa Mayer.

"Yahoo is so much bigger than AOL! How can they merge?" And now he's going to run it, it looks like. So you know, they're not going to be the next Google and Facebook but he’s certainly much better off, Verizon's much better off, than the assets that they had yesterday. So this is a much bigger stage. I think he's going to focus on Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Finance. Those have been neglected in the properties in some ways for years. There's still big traffic. So they'll do video stuff. He was doing that already at AOL, I mean this is right up that alley. So I do think there's, you know, it's going to be interesting. I'm sure they're not done there either. I think he, and I think Marni — Marni Walden, his boss — is very impressive. So I think it's going to be exciting.

So whither Yahoo? is it going to be what it was? Or just a part of ... Tim has told me they're keeping the brands and they are not getting rid of the Yahoo brands as some people thought they might. They shouldn't.

I think they should keep them, yeah. I think that's smart. It's a beloved brand! I mean this is still one of the most trafficked websites in the world! It's not cool for everybody in Silicon Valley, but everybody in the heart of America still loves it, and I think they should keep the brands. The brands do mean something. In some ways they mean more than Go90 or whatever else. So I think that's smart and I hope they bring back the old logo.

[laughs] Yes, me too. I hate that skinny logo. Man, do I hate that logo.

That was part of the turnaround 99-pager suggestions.

Bring back the fat logo.

Bring the logo and bring back that billboard on the 101.

Yeah, they tried with the bad new logo. What is the legacy of Marissa Mayer and all these CEOs? I'm going to lump her in with all of them. What is the legacy?

I'd say, you know, beware of the high-profile executive. I mean, the high profile executive probably should be aware of their own brand and be careful in how they carry themselves. But certainly investors and board members should be careful in hiring someone like that. And I remember somebody, I think it was Dan Primack writing when she first started, "Oh this is a no-lose proposition for her because even if she fails she'll make a lot of money and people will say it wasn't her fault."

Well, that happened.

But I ... you know, she's taken a hit here. I'm sure she'll come back in some way.

Yes, there's no failure in Silicon Valley, Eric. Don't you know that?

Yeah, that's right. [laughs] So I'd say, basic management skills mean as much today as they did 10 or 20 or 30 years ago.

Absolutely. This was a turnaround situation that needed a quiet executive. Just block and tackle, it seemed to me.

And I guess it's a cautionary tale more broadly for any successful company today. I mean, nobody thinks Facebook can fail, or Google, and yet …

Right, very good point.

There's a lot of tales in Yahoo to ... I admire the way that Facebook was so aggressive in going after Instagram and Whatsapp because that was sort of the anti-Yahoo move. Yahoo was just so slow and so expecting that they were still the top dog and "even if we don't overbid to buy this asset, we're still the top dog and everything will come back to us."

So, final question, Eric. Are we done with Yahoo? You and me? No. [laughs]

I don't know. I'm not willing to say that yet, Kara.

Me neither. We're like addicts. It's Yahooism.

I want to see the resurrection years!

Oh, Eric, we're so ridiculous. But I'm not mean, right? You called me mean once. You have to take it back.

Did I call you mean?

You did! You said I'm being mean. I said I'm being accurate.

No, you're not mean at all.

Okay, I'm teasing.

You're not mean at all. Maybe I was defending Dan Loeb there.

Oh god. That guy. He walked away with a pile of money. He used to drive me crazy.

Like I said, you were the only one who was a skeptic.

Well, Dan is much more clever than I because he walked away with a pile of money and I just write. At one point he and I were arguing about something and I said, "You're so poor, all you have is money." Which he got really mad about! It was my little moment even though he owns like 27 islands in Greece. In any case, lots of people have benefited off of Yahoo and we have benefited in that it's been a fascinating story, and Eric, I really have appreciated all your stories and thoughts on all this. And thank you for coming by.

Thank you. I've met some great people, yourself included, who I never would have met if I had not pulled the rope on Yahoo, so it's been great.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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