This sounds strangely like a case that I have lived. When I worked for Radio Shack, it was headed by a man named Len Roberts. Mr. Roberts had promised us, as managers, that he was doing things that would make any manager that had been with the company for 5 years or more a millionaire, due to the increases in stock prices he would oversee, plus the rewards from our efforts as managers of our stores. This did not seem that outlandish at the time, because we, as managers, were being given large stock options every year, as a performance enhancing tool. With the increases the company was having (this was pre-9/11) the stock was rising rapidly, and was about to split. We were all very joyous, and counting our blessings that we worked for such a great company.
Then it hit. We got word that Mr. Roberts had sold over a million dollars worth of stock. That stock split? That went up in smoke when the stock took a huge tumble, on the news of the CEO’s sale of personal stock. It was the beginning of the end for many at Radio Shack, and soon after we saw the poor performance of both stock and CEO. The dream was gone, almost as quickly as it had come. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Roberts was gone, and the Radio Shack stock price has never come back – to this day.
Sounds unbelievably like what I read at Tech Connect…
Carol Bartz, Yahoo’s Chief Executive Officer has begun a chain of doubt and concern that is spirally out of control within the company, after news crept out that she sold $830,000 worth of stock back in March this year, and a further $1.4 million in June, dishing out nearly half of the $5 million in options that she was presented when appointed CEO back in January.
The move has been slated as absurd, and is more than likely to upset shareholders, as well as will lower employee morale (even more so). Investors had generally expected Bartz to refrain from cashing in her stock, with $1 million salary and her apparent eagerness to help Yahoo after barely wriggling its way through 2008 alive.
Yahoo announced more than 2,000 job cuts last year, it instigated a salary freeze in January, and the recent deal signed with Microsoft, in which Bing will power Yahoo search, could result in further job cuts. Moreover, Yahoo’s share price has fallen 10% in recent months.
Bartz has attempted to boost morale in an email to staff. “So get out of the sugar low. We have work to do. Stop staring at our navels, stop arguing with each other. Stop debate, debate, debate, and let’s focus on the competition,” she wrote.
However, morale is unlikely to improve when senior executives sell their stock options, as they should be the people with the most faith in the company. Meanwhile, investors tend to rest easier when executives own big stakes in the companies they run, as it is believed that they have the shareholders’ interests at heart.
Gee, I know that when this happened at Radio Shack, employee morale went to depths that had not been seen at any time during my tenure there. Old time managers said that things had not looked that bleak in over 20 years. So I can imagine what has happened in the halls, and at the water coolers at Yahoo. First, they bring in someone who knows nothing about their business (Bartz did not come from another search company, did she? Similarly, Len Roberts had come in as a Svengali in the foods industry, but did not know electronics.), then, she sells out to Microsoft, like a good little ‘plant’ should, and now, she’s getting her shares (accumulated through none of her toil) cashed out, while they are still worth something. What a sport!
American big business… In the words of famed Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff, “What a country!” (If you’re not familiar with his work, you should know that he used that phrase in times of good and bad; similar to the way the younger set can convey so much attitude, and information, connoting both good and bad, with meaningful vocal inflections as they emit the word “Dude”.)