Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz fired by phone

Carol Bartz

Shares rise on news that spiky Bartz has been given a taste of her own medicine

LAST UPDATED AT 11:36 ON Wed 7 Sep 2011

INTERNET giant Yahoo is searching for its third CEO in as many years after firing Carol Bartz. In an email to all staff from her iPad, Bartz was careful to relate the manner of her dismissal: "I am very sad to tell you that I've just been fired over the phone by Yahoo's Chairman of the Board."

The company says chief financial officer Tim Morse will act as CEO while a permanent replacement is recruited. Wall Street reacted favourably to Bartz's departure, with Yahoo shares rising six per cent.

Anybody who has worked at Yahoo will tell you that virtually all day-to-day business is conducted by instant message, which, in a way, means Bartz's sacking by phone was a sign of utmost respect.

But seasoned observers of Silicon Valley have noted the abrupt brush-off is in keeping with her own character.

Her view on the dotcom bubble of the late 1990s is typical of her sharp wit: "I'd go to investor conferences - with standing room only at presentations by Used-Fucking-Golfballs.com - and I'd get four shareholders listening to me."

In a 2004 CNN profile, Bartz, who became Yahoo CEO in 2009 - taking over from the company's co-founder Jerry Yang - was said to frequently open meetings with the line: "Tell me why I shouldn't fire the whole lot of you."

Her humour frequently riffs on the subject of sacking people. She once apologised for arriving late to a gathering of employees saying: "My staff will tell you, never have a breakfast with Carol. That's when people tend to get fired."

On the evidence of such anecdotes, the Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock was wise to reach for his iPhone: who would want to fire her face-to-face?

Some of Bartz's sayings may not have endeared her to Yahoo's top brass. In 2010 she responded to a journalist's question about Facebook with her own pointed question: "Remind me, what's their revenue?"

The Wall Street Journal notes that particular barb convinced some executives that Bartz didn't fully appreciate the growing threat posed by Facebook.

The social network and Google have been eating into Yahoo's share of internet display advertising - a key revenue stream.

What next?
Kara Swisher writes on AllThingsD: "Why Yahoo's board did not name a new leader immediately is curious and might indicate a larger deal around Yahoo is in the offing."

Swisher suggests a number of possible individuals and companies are sniffing around with plans that range from taking Yahoo private to making a large investment to splitting it into parts. Interested parties she names include former News Corp, AT&T and Verizon. · 

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