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September 9, 2011

Bartz fires departing salvo at Yahoo board

But calling board "doofuses" violates non-disparagement clause and may cost her $10m severance pay, says Fortune

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Sacked Yahoo boss Carol Bartz has slammed the board at the struggling firm, describing them as "doofuses" and criticising the manner of her dismissal.

Carol Bartz

Just 24 hours after the news was announced Bartz spoke to Fortune magazine about her firing, and didn’t hold back her true feelings. It seems her anger stems from the manner of the dismissal as much as the fact she has lost her job. Her email to Yahoo workers informing them of her sacking was short and to the point.

"I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s Chairman of the Board," it read. "It has been my pleasure to work with all of you and I wish you only the best going forward."

Now she has gone further. "These people fucked me over," she told Fortune, before describing the manner of her dismissal. She was due to call chairman Roy Bostock at 6pm, and when she did he began reading a statement to her, prepared she says by Yahoo lawyers: "I said, ‘Roy, I think that’s a script. Why don’t you have the balls to tell me yourself? I thought you were classier.’"

She claimed the board was looking to show a decisive nature after the bungled takeover attempt by Microsoft in 2008, before Bartz joined. The board was roundly criticised for not doing the deal. "The board was so spooked by being cast as the worst board in the country," she says, "Now they’re trying to show that they’re not the doofuses that they are."

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Fortune is now reporting that Bartz’s comments could have cost her a vast sum of money. Sources have told Fortune that she had a non-disparagement clause in her employment contract, which has about $10m outstanding, and her statements have likely violated that clause.

Bartz does of course have previous for this sort of language. In May 2010 she shared some choice words with Michael Arrington, founder of influential tech blog TechCrunch. A bad tampered interview was ended when Bartz took offence to Arrington’s line of questioning about her success at Yahoo.

"I don’t want to hear any crap — I don’t want to hear any crap about something magical [like an iPod or iPad that Yahoo could have gotten into] that the fine people of Yahoo are supposed to do in this short time [17 months since she joined]. So fuck off. And that one I meant. Lunch time! We’re way over. End on a high," she said.

Despite the bullish attitude and headline-friendly quotes, Bartz was not the success at Yahoo that the board had been hoping. Yahoo is worth less today than it was before she started and the site has lost ground to Google and social network Facebook. Yahoo has been constantly losing it market share in selling online graphical and video ads to these firms.

According to comScore, the number of minutes that US website visitors spend on Yahoo sites per month has dropped 33% since Bartz took over the firm.

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