Yahoo investor Starboard presses for change in leadership and strategy

Marissa Mayer

Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer in 2014. 

(Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)

A big Yahoo investor is asking for a leadership change at the beleaguered company and pushing for the spinoff of its core Internet business.

“Despite over three years of effort and billions spent on acquisitions, the management team that was hired to turn around the core business has failed to produce acceptable results, in turn, causing massive declines in profitability and cash flow,” Starboard Value LP wrote in a letter released Wednesday. “It appears that investors have lost all confidence in management and the board.”

If changes are not forthcoming in leadership, Starboard said, an election may be needed to replace some board members.

Starboard did not include any specific names in its letter. Marissa Mayer became chief executive of Yahoo Inc. in 2012, and Maynard Webb became chairman in 2013.

Starboard did not immediately respond to an early request for comment.

With shares down 35% over the last year, Yahoo is facing mounting pressure from unhappy shareholders.

Last month, New York hedge fund SpringOwl Asset Management and Los Angeles investment firm Canyon Capital Advisors were vocal about the steps they believed Yahoo should take. SpringOwl said it wanted Yahoo to lay off 9,000 of its 10,700 workers and eliminate free food for employees to help save $2 billion annually. Canyon Capital recommended Yahoo sell its Internet business.

Starboard had also threatened an attempt to overthrow Yahoo’s board if the company continued with plans to break off its $31-billion stake in China’s Alibaba Group. Yahoo eventually scrapped that plan and instead announced the spinoff of its Internet operations.

Starboard said Wednesday that it thinks Yahoo can improve the performance of the core business and separate its assets.

“We are confident that both of these objectives are achievable, but will require a change in leadership and strategy,” Starboard said in its letter.

Yahoo has been working on a cost-cutting reorganization plan, with details expected to be announced this month.