“I don’t think Carl really understands the media business. The final thing is, he doesn’t understand how the Internet works, and, in particular, how the search function is monetized.”
That’s Gordon Crawford of Capital Research, speaking to the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta in 2006 in Ken’s excellent retelling of the Carl Icahn vs. Dick Parsons battle for Time Warner. The piece is largely sympathetic to Parsons (since replaced as CEO by Jeff Bewkes) and largely dismissive of Icahn, whom it portrays as a man out of time: The guy who personified the debt-fuelled hostile takeovers of the 80s but who can’t hack it in the digital age.
Carl helps foster this image himself: “Icahn insisted, ‘I understand how Google makes its money,’ but he conceded, ‘I don’t understand the digital world.’ And so does his wife: “He does not do email himself”, she tells Ken.
So what’s changed now, as Carl inserts himself in the middle of the Yahoo mess? We’re not sure if his tech IQ has changed — he has a blog, but has yet to post anything on it — but we’re also sure that this time around, it doesn’t matter.
That’s because Carl doesn’t have to convince anyone that he knows how to fix Yahoo’s problem, as he tried to do unsuccessfully with Time Warner. All he has to do is convince shareholders that Jerry Yang and Co. blew it by not taking Microsoft’s $33 or $34 per share. Which is why Carl is now working hand-in-hand with… Gordon Crawford.