We all remember when activist fund Starboard tried to get The Olive Garden to rethink its free breadstick policy, but instead just took over the whole shebang by voting out and replacing the entire board of the restaurant's parent company, Darden Restaurants.
Starboard even released that crazy presentation highlighting the mad folly of free breadsticks and went so far as to accuse the people running the show over at Darden at having pasta fagioli for brains. It was the nastiest private equity food fight people had seen in a long while, and Starboard won it handily.
It also pitted Starboard directly against Goldman Sachs' activist-fighting ninja, Bill Anderson, who reportedly came to really hate the fund and all of its breadstick and non-breadstick shenanigans. Overall, it was a weird little tale about the value curve of bad Italian food destined to stay in its little niche of history and never be heard from again.
Well, funny story:
Yahoo has many teams of advisers, but perhaps none is more critical at the moment than activism specialist Bill Anderson...
But sources tell On the Money that Anderson has a particular ax to grind when it comes to Starboard Value’s Jeff Smith. The two fought over restaurant chain Darden, with Starboard winning a vote to replace the entire board. Anderson is part of a team who advised Yahoo to play hardball with Starboard.
After all (still) Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has been through, it seems both tortuous and fitting that her plan to rescue her company is being held up by an old argument over free breadsticks. Mayer has seemingly zigged on every occasion that called for zag and turned left when presented only with right turns, leaving her with livid investors, a depressed staff, and a coterie of advisors that look like something out of a back-stabbing Elizabethan soap opera.
And to make it even better, the breadsticks beef is something that Anderson is bringing into the Yahoo mess on an almost personal level, since he left Goldman after the Olive Garden nightmare and is now working at Evercore where he advises Mayer and Yahoo in her fight against Starboard.
And it is showing...
Yahoo rejected Starboard’s suggestion that it add Starboard-friendly members to its board and instead on March 10 added two others: Catherine Friedman, former Morgan Stanley investment banker, and Eric Brandt, chief financial officer of chipmaker Broadcom Corp.
Starboard then hit back, unveiling its own slate of directors on Thursday for a June 24 showdown.
We've said before here that Mayer's collection of advisors is like a curio cabinet of big personalities and conflicting interests, but we can now literally envision a situation wherein Marissa calls a meeting to assuage Starboard with news on Yahoo's "core business" and the whole thing devolves into an argument with Bill Anderson screaming about breadsticks, while Cravath lawyers chalk up billable hours and Frank Quattrone twirls his mustache with glee.