Yang's Yahoo departure changes rules of the game

Updated: 2012-01-19 07:56

By Chen Limin and Gao Yuan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, China's biggest e-commerce company by sales, may have to restructure its relationship with its largest shareholder, Yahoo! Inc, according to experts.

The change in the relationship may help the Chinese company to gain a greater say in its future following Jerry Yang's resignation from Yahoo, said analysts.

Yang, Yahoo's co-founder and former CEO, helped to facilitate the US company's purchase of part of Alibaba Group in 2005.

He doesn't support Yahoo's plans to offload its Asian assets, comprising its shareholdings in Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan, said Liu Guanwu, an analyst with the domestic research company Analysys International.

With the departure of Yang, all that remains between the two companies is a business relationship and Yang's personal influence will soon fade, said Xie Wen, a Chinese IT critic and former president of Yahoo China.

"There will be less concern over the personal aspects of the relationship, which is good for the two companies who will have to play the game according to the rules of business," he said.

Yang's Yahoo departure changes rules of the game


However, Alibaba has lost a familiar and friendly presence in its relationship with Yahoo, which is not good news for the Chinese e-commerce giant, added Xie.

Duncan Clark, chairman of investment advisory company BDA China, said Yang's departure may make it more likely that a deal will happen between Yahoo and Alibaba Group.

Yahoo announced Yang's departure on Wednesday, saying that he had resigned from its board and also those of Yahoo Japan Corp and Alibaba Group, which is partly owned by Yahoo.

Yang's resignation will enable Yahoo's recently appointed CEO, Scott Thompson, to become more focused on offers for its Asian assets to pacify investors, who have been dissatisfied with Yahoo's poor performance over recent years, said Clark.

In 2011, Alibaba Group tried to buy back the stake it had sold to Yahoo, but the attempt failed after the companies failed to reach a consensus on the price.

Late last year, the Chinese company hired a US-based lobbying company to promote a possible bid to acquire Yahoo.

Alibaba Group has also prepared a fund of $3 billion to buy back part of the 40-percent stake currently held by Yahoo, according to a report from Reuters that cited unnamed sources.

Alibaba Group's Chairman and CEO Jack Ma said in a statement that he will continue to build a "constructive relationship" with Yahoo's top executives.

Yang has also left a seat vacant in Alibaba's boardroom, however, the Chinese company's statement didn't elaborate what will happen to that vacancy. The board now includes Ma, the CFO Joe Tsai, and Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of Softbank Corp.

China Daily