Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

More on Retention Packages and Enhanced Severance at Yahoo

If you are feeling a little déjà vu about the news BoomTown broke this morning about new retention packages and enhanced severance benefits for Yahoos, in order to keep them from bolting in the face of Microsoft’s unsolicited bid (and to give them a payout in case it works), you are not wrong.


According to several execs who contacted me today, this is what Yahoo (YHOO) did in late 2006, when the troubled Internet portal was starting to suffer from drift and its stock was struggling. The solution was “Project Engage,” which was a combination of granting options and restricted stocks units (RSUs).

At the time, employees were given two of each kind, with the stock options and one RSU grant having a longer vesting timeframe (typically several years). The other RSU grant, which is essentially outright grant of stock, actually just vested on Feb. 2, which might explain some recent departures of top talent to new jobs.

Said one exec: “Everyone was just biding their time for the RSU to vest and the Microsoft bid just gives everyone an excuse to leave, because it is hard to imagine wanting to work for Yahoo if it gets forcibly taken over.”

The new Yahoo retention packages would again presumably help hold onto talent, if the deal does not go through, while the enhanced severance would give them a comfy escape route if Microsoft (MSFT) takes over.

As an added benefit to Yahoo, which is seeking to escape Microsoft’s embrace, it will make acquiring Yahoo even more pricey for Microsoft. In addition, if it wins Yahoo, the software giant will still have to hand out even more retention benefits to stave off an exodus.

In a follow-up to BoomTown’s story, Kevin Delaney of The Wall Street Journal has more details of the severance plan, which will cover all employees even if they are laid off due to a change of control at the company.

Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang alerted employees to the severance benefits plan in an email Friday, promising specific details would be available to staff today, the story said.