Yahoo investors have questions, but execs don’t have answers

Tim Morse, Yahoo's CFO and interim CEO

Yahoo(s YHOO) on Tuesday held a conference call with analysts and investors to discuss its latest quarterly earnings results. With all the buzz around the company recently, it seemed like the latest earnings report would certainly be an event to watch. But during the call, CFO and interim CEO Tim Morse made it clear repeatedly that the headline-making issues of recent weeks — the abrupt departure of Carol Bartz as CEO, and Yahoo’s status as a potential takeover target for other companies — were strictly off limits.

Morse kicked off the call by obliquely referencing the recent turmoil:

“The board is actively looking at a full range of options to return the company to a path of robust growth and industry-leading innovation. The board also has said that when it has something to announce, it will do so. That will take time. And it will not be today, and it will not be on this call.”

Alright then. Of course, that did not stop analysts from trying to get more details on what exactly is going on in Yahoo’s boardroom during the call’s question and answer session. But Morse, who does not hold a seat on Yahoo’s board, repeatedly used his relative outsider status to deflect such inquiries. A few examples:

  • When one analyst specifically asked about why Carol Bartz was dismissed when the company’s financial performance under her leadership was in line with investor expectations, Morse said: “The board’s process is the board’s process.”
  • When asked how the current CEO search is coming, Morse said: “All I can tell you is it’s underway. That’s the board’s process, and I don’t have any comment on the board’s process.”
  • And when asked about the ongoing strategic review, which ostensibly includes looking at options to sell Yahoo in part or altogether, Morse said: “This will take some time. The board wants to do what’s best for the company, and that doesn’t imply that they put a specific timeline on this. The board’s process will be what it will be, and the timing will be what it will be.”

However, Yahoo’s investors did not seem to be too put off by Yahoo’s managerial reticence on all things strategic. The company’s stock was trading slightly up in the after-hours stock market Tuesday evening (the earnings call was held at 5:00pm Eastern Time, after the market closed.) It seems that even with the significant revenue and profit drops Yahoo reported Tuesday, a good deal of people still think the company can turn around; and some are apparently willing to give its executive team and corporate board space while they try to make that happen. It will be interesting to see, though, how long it will be before patience starts to run thin — and investors start to demand more answers.