Fired at the bar? Former Yahoo worker sues

Michael Katz claimed the company publicly humiliated him to avoid paying the bonus he was promised after selling his online ad company.

By Jason Notte Mar 5, 2013 5:03PM
Yahoo offices in Santa Clara, Calif. ( Paul Sakuma/AP Photo)If Yahoo (YHOO) is planning an outrageous personnel-related item each week just to keep its name out there, then well-played.


Just after last week's kerfuffle involving CEO Marissa Mayer, her stance against telecommuting in favor of increased productivity and the ensuing opinion of just about everyone in the workforce who's ever started a shift in their pajamas, yet another Yahoo personnel move has found its way into public record.


Michael Katz, founder of the Interclick online advertising company acquired by Yahoo for $270 million in December 2011, prior to Mayer's hiring, claims in a lawsuit that the company tried to "humiliate" him by firing him in a bar a few months ago, according to The Associated Press. Oh, and there's the small matter of the first of three $1.3 million installments of his retention bonus he was scheduled to receive in January 2013, just weeks after he was let go.


Yahoo is already a vastly different company than it was in 2011, when then-interim CEO Tim Morse brought Katz aboard through the Interclick acquisition. Katz stuck around through Yahoo's game of CEO musical chairs and made enough of an impression on interim CEO Ross Levinsohn to earn praise as a "great visionary," according to the complaint.


Katz's relationship with Yahoo soured in December, when his lawsuit claims the head of human resources summoned Katz to a bar one Sunday night “while he was at home observing the second night of Hanukkah.” Katz says he thought it was an urgent business matter, and he wasn't entirely wrong. He was told he was being fired “effective almost immediately,” just weeks before Yahoo was slated to pay him the first of three $1.3 million retention bonuses he was slated to collect through 2016.


While it's understandably tough to earn a retention bonus when the company you're working for doesn't choose to retain your services, Katz's suit filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York claims the "rushed termination clearly was structured and timed as an attempt to deprive him of the compensation he was promised during the merger negotiations.”


Mayer was brought in to shake Yahoo back to life, improve its revenue and restore its relevance to consumers. Employee satisfaction isn't key to any of those goals, but poking the company's well-fed bears is doing wonders for its profile and its share price, which is up more than 50% in the last six months.


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50Comments
Mar 5, 2013 6:32PM
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I hope he wins it big. take his money buy stock and then sell it to Google for twice as much and Google can go after Yahoo, which is pathetic.
Mar 5, 2013 10:30PM
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Sure, Mayer was brought in to "shake things up", but that mean she has to make enemies in the process?  

She's burning bridges, and not to just unimportant people. 

 Eliminating tele-commuting while - at the same time - building a nursery next to her office isn't going to inspire the employees to work harder for Yahoo.  

I was at a company whose CEO was hated by the employees, and it wasn't a good thing.  Moral was always low, and the work-ethic was terrible.

Like someone else said, if she last more than a year it will be a surprise.
Mar 5, 2013 7:24PM
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Don't feel bad, once a pon a time. The coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs, was fired by the Glazer family via a post on the Buc's web-site.

  Tony D ( bucs now former coach) found out when a local sports writer he was friends with call him at home and asked him for a comment......

   Thankfully Tony is a classy guy, still lives in the Tampa area, and does a ton of charity work.....FU Glazer family.....And no, I haven't gone to nor watched a Bucs game sence....

 

RNT

Mar 6, 2013 5:04AM
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Yahoo! deserves to be a victim of a hostile takeover where the mid-level management and below are retained and the officers are kicked out the door.
Mar 5, 2013 6:36PM
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I'm surprised the new boss Mayer didn't send him an email....on pink paper.  To be fired while sipping a Makers Mark neat ain't classy at all.  Mayer may not last a year. 
Mar 5, 2013 10:45PM
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This is a good picture on what is wrong with the country. A multi-billion dollar company makes all of it's internal affairs public, and boom, what-do-ya-know... Dramatic increases in stock prices and record breaking profits. Does this have anything to do with transparency? No. It has everything to do with incompetent buyers/investors and markets on the verge of collapse, doing anything to keep the money rolling in, but nothing productive or relevant.
Mar 6, 2013 8:27AM
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They probally left him with the bar tab too.
Mar 6, 2013 11:19AM
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re Tog - I'd be surprised if you are anywhere near responsible for managing people.  "this is where the big boys play..."  Get a clue.  Let's fire you on Christmas Eve and see how you respond.  It is not about the money, it is the principle.  When you acquire a company and include retention bonuses, it is assumed that you are working in good faith and that you want the expertise of the person who started the company.  What was so urgent that the whatever was being done couldn't wait until Monday or before Hahnukah?  Meyer is showing that she is too young to be a CEO.  Her only goal seems to be to undo a bunch of decisions taken by previous management, not because they make good business sense but for the sake of showing that she's different.  She's in over her head and a jerk to boot - building a nursey next to her office so she can be close to her child while cutting off the opportunity for her employees to do the same.
Mar 6, 2013 11:18AM
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So Yahoo pulled someone in from a strictly observed religious high holy day into a bar serving alcohol and attempted to fire him on the spot in a highly public place to avoid a contractual obligation?  I can't honestly think of a single defensive argument for what happened.
Mar 6, 2013 10:26AM
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The company I worked for once fired a guy - an engineer - in front of his daughter on Take Your Daughter to Work Day.  Calling a Jewish guy to a bar on Hanukkah to fire him is pretty bad, too; either way, it takes a lot of chutzpah.  Bad chutzpah.
Mar 6, 2013 11:00AM
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Are you kidding me?   How can you say that "Mayer was brought in to shake Yahoo back to life, improve its revenue and restore its relevance to consumers. Employee satisfaction isn't key to any of those goals..."  That is the exact thinking that gets senior management into trouble to begin with.  Employees that are treated poorly, are made to feel irrelevant and work in an environment were they are not appreciated are not productive or creative.  Dissatisfied employees do not take the extra step or go the extra mile that is critical to acheiving all three of the goals you mentioned.  Disastisfied employees are not invested in the success of the company.  You are completely nuts to say that employee satisfaction is not key to shaking Yahoo back to life, improve revenue and increasing its relevance to consumers.
Mar 6, 2013 10:25AM
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Stop the madness.  I only hope that the HR rep. "feels the same love" someday, that they provided for Mr. Katz.  When does this craziness and greed end?
Mar 6, 2013 11:46AM
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I fired Yahoo. That's why I'm posting here.
Mar 6, 2013 8:09AM
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Does yahoo do anything other than fantasy football and mail these days?  I quit going there when their news articles showed so much bias.
Mar 6, 2013 1:24PM
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Oh boo-hoo, the guy makes a couple hundred million and is upset for being fired at a bar.... Really?? Try being low to middle income and getting laid off numerous times throughout your career when tying to raise kids and pay bills on an average persons salary!!!!

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They are killing the spirit and with that kill the business
Mar 6, 2013 8:38AM
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Oh, please! The little guy gets screwed over 24/7 and you almost never hear about it. My hearts pumps purple piss.

Mar 6, 2013 3:52AM
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YA HOO................................    PRICKS - Or PUSS PUSS
Mar 6, 2013 1:38PM
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I once worked for a major multi-national company.  The CEO would grace us with an audience once a year or so.  I remember him saying, "Our first priority is to our shareholders, then our customers and finally, our employees."  He was recommending that we all buy stock.  My position "was eliminated" when I got too expensive.
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