As Long As We Are Rethinking Yahoo’s Board

Carl Icahn has suggested a new slate of directors for Yahoo! as part of his proxy fight with the company. The International Herald Tribune has a list of the current ten directors and Icahn’s proposed slate. The morning Icahn’s slate was announced I was a bit irritated by the whole thing and expressed my irritation on twitter. David Dalka replied with the obvious question – If Icahn’s slate is no good, who would you propose?

So I’ve been thinking about this for the past several days. First I think the current board must take some responsibility for where Yahoo! finds itself now. It probably is time for a little housecleaning. But Icahn’s slate doesn’t include many people with real internet business experience and only one or two with any idea of where the internet is headed. But the biggest problem with Icahn and his slate is that it’s all a game to get control of the company and sell it to Microsoft, a transaction that neither company apparently wants to do anymore. An even more cynical view is that Icahn and his slate just want to be bought off with greenmail of some sort.

I have been saying since the start of this whole Yahoo/Microsoft thing that what Yahoo! needs is to get smaller, leaner, and more focused. And I think they should partner in some way with Google to increase the monetization of their search without giving up on their own search platform entirely. I like some of the moves they are making to open up the entire Yahoo platform and let others build applications, services, and companies on top of it.

So with that proviso, here’s my suggested slate of directors. None of these people have any idea I am going to mention them in this post and I suspect few, if any, would agree to serve if asked.

Roy Bostock, Chairman – Because I think he’s doing a good job right now and he seems to be a strong leader of the board.

Jerry Yang, CEO – I am not sure Jerry should be CEO long term, but I think he’s got the company moving in the right direction. And as a founder, he should be on the board regardless if he remains CEO.

Bill Gross – Instead of putting someone like Mark Cuban who sold his company for billions to Yahoo! and then turns around and participates in a hostile action against them, I would put Gross on because he also sold a company, Overture, to Yahoo! and because he invented paid search and he always has great ideas for new business models.

Marc Andreessen – Apparently Marc is joining the Facebook board. It’s too bad Yahoo! didn’t ask him to join their board. When you talk about opening up a platform and allowing people to build social apps on it, Marc is doing just that. If Marc won’t do it, then someone like Dave Winer would be a good choice for similar reasons.

Mike Moritz – Because he’s the best Internet investor ever and because the stock is about the same price it was when he left the board in the middle of 2003.

Tim O’Reilly – Because Tim is one of best thinkers about where the web and technology is headed and because if Yahoo! truly wants to be open, Tim can help them think about how to do it right.

Nancy Peretsman – Because Nancy is one of the sharpest media bankers and she knows the Internet and the players like the back of her hand. And because Yahoo! is going to be in play for a while even if this Icahn thing goes away and they need someone like Nancy on the board.

Yochai Benkler – Because Yahoo! is a network at its core and nobody has thought more deeply about the role of networks in society and the economy than Yochai.

Mike Walrath – Because Right Media’s is one of the most interesting acquisitions that Yahoo! has made in recent years and because Yahoo! can use Right Media to build the dominant exchange for display advertising, a market position in display that could rival what Google has created in keyword.

Another entrepreneur who has recently sold their company to Yahoo! – Someone like Joshua Schachter or Stewart Butterfield or Caterina Fake or Eric Marcoullier or Al Warms or Satish Dharmaraj. Because entrepreneurs are often closest to the pulse of where things are heading. And because Yahoo! needs to do a better job leveraging the acquisitions they make and these people know what Yahoo! is doing right and what it is doing wrong with its acquisitions.

So that’s my slate. The fact is that other than Ray and Jerry, it would be hard, if not impossible, to get most of these people interested in doing this. Public boards are hard work and fraught with liability. Imagine if you were on Yahoo!’s board right now. Ugh. But regardless of what happens, if Yahoo! stays independent, they should start churning their board and this list would be a good place to start the search.

Feel free to leave suggestions or entire slates in the comments or post your own slate and leave a link in the comments. I will add all links to other slates to the end of this post.