TAKING STOCK: Yahoo's yahoos

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Dear Mr. Berko:

Up until a month ago, I used Yahoo for stock prices and research on stocks I might buy. But without notice, Yahoo completely changed the Yahoo Finance site, using a beta version of a different format that is terrible to use. People I talk to are disgusted with the new, inferior format and content. I've tried calling and sending emails, hoping Yahoo will go back to the original format, but no one at its California headquarters responds. It makes me glad my stockbroker sold Yahoo at $46 last February. Some people think it's a good buy today at about $33, including my broker. I'm so disgusted I could spit.

-DC, Akron, Ohio

Dear DC:

I haven't counted the number of readers who're screaming bloody murder because Yahoo (YHOO-$33.89) slipped a couple of cookies into their Internet Explorer, redirecting them to the new, cockeyed financial site without alerting a soul. But that's Yahoo; the morons running YHOO don't understand the word "communicate." And that's why YHOO is slowly and quietly rotting from within. I'm surprised you didn't comment about the sickly redesigned YHOO mail format, which has caused lynching talk around the country. YHOO doesn't respond because it doesn't care. The folks in management need a daily regimen of team enemas, and they must begin taking their prescribed meds again.

Most public companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index have excellent media relations departments that are easily accessible to the press. MR folks are often more informed about their company than management and often have fascinating personal stories to tell about management big shots. This is especially true at big corporations, such as Target, McDonald's, Merck & Co., General Mills, Chevron, AT&T, etc. YHOO also has an MR department, but it's not allowed to answer the phone. When the phone does ring, MR folks think it's a lunch bell, and if an employee is gone for more than 40 minutes, he has to be retrained. There are many reasons this company is called Yahoo; certainly, such synonyms as airhead, birdbrain, oaf, goof, dimwit and bonehead are apropos.

I can't tell you why YHOO abruptly and completely redesigned the Yahoo Finance page. But had I attended CEO Marissa Mayer's $7 million "Great Gatsby"-themed Christmas party, where she perched on a white throne posing for pictures, one of the many drunken YHOO engineers would have told me. I've never liked YHOO for financial information; its format and presentation were fine, but the data were frequently out-of-date and wrong. Were I an advertiser, I'd surely not use YHOO.

Mayer, who became CEO in 2012, has a master's degree from Stanford University in computer science with a specialization in artificial intelligence. But since taking over as CEO, Mayer's throne has morphed into a divisive influence. And spending $565,000 to install a baby nursery in her office certainly helped! Initially, Mayer fantasized she would become another Steve Jobs. It took her nearly a year to recognize that YHOO makes money selling advertising, not iPhones, iPads or Apple Watches. It's been almost four years since she became queen, and during that time, revenues have grown by a pathetic $46 million, from $4.984 billion in 2012 to $5.03 billion in 2015. Meanwhile, disaffected and key people who couldn't abide Mayer began leaving in late 2012 and still are. Two hand-picked lieutenants, Jackie Reses, who ran mergers and acquisitions, and Kathy Savitt, who headed marketing, left before that sumptuous "Gatsby" bash. Now YHOO's confused, inutile board members are quietly looking to replace Mayer.

YHOO invested $1 billion in 2005 buying a 40 percent stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA-$83.03). Shortly before BABA went public, brilliant Mayer sold back 535 million shares at $13-for about $7 billion-reporting a $6 billion gain. Six months later, that stake would have been worth $45 billion. YHOO still owns 15 percent of BABA. However, YHOO's 1 billion outstanding shares have a market cap of $33 billion-including its BABA shares, which are worth $30 billion. So YHOO without BABA is a $3 billion pig in a poke.

YHOO-with an aging board of directors, crippled management, clueless engineers and vacuous programmers-may be a takeover target. And Verizon Communications, which owns AOL, is looking.

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CORRECTION:

In the December 31st Taking Stock, there was misinformation about car parks in Europe. The following is the corrected information:

It seems that the production of new cars greatly exceeds demand. When you drive past the ubiquitous General Motors, Chrysler/Jeep and Ford dealerships in Portland, note that their lots seem to overflow with shiny new cars, snugly packed, side by side, like cheap stogies in a cigar box. The crammed lots are not limited to American models; Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen and Hyundai have them, too. In car lot after car lot, in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Kankakee, Kokomo and Kalamazoo, spanking-new vehicles are begging for kind, loving Americans who can afford to take them off the lot, drive them to a new home, fuel them, care for them, take them for a ride and show them to friends.

And one can't help but wonder: What happens to those old 2015 models after the new 2016 models are presented in the showrooms? I don't have that answer. It was suggested to me that there are photos on Google of massive car parks in Europe where these cars are consigned to die. But according to Snopes.com, that's pure tommyrot. Those photos depict stockpiles from 2009, when there was a dramatic decline in sales because of the global financial crisis.

I'm not enthusiastic about auto stocks. However, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley are bullish on GM, while Goldman Sachs and Stifel really like F. Each expects earnings and dividends to accelerate this year.

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Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at mjberko@yahoo.com. To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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Published: Thu, Jan 07, 2016