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Yahoo's CEO cashes $230M in stocks in 2004

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For Yahoo Inc. Chief Executive Terry Semel, it pays to be wanted. Semel took advantage of a rebound in technology stock prices and sold 10 million shares of Yahoo worth $230 million last year, making his annual haul one of the largest ever for a corporate executive. He still holds $324 million worth of stock he can sell any time and another $71 million of restricted shares.

Meanwhile, the company said in a regulatory filing that it made Semel's pay package even better because he has become an "attractive candidate to competing organizations." The company said it "took aggressive action in 2004 to retain Mr. Semel."

So it gave Semel an additional 1 million stock options he can cash out by the end of this year and another 1 million he can sell in 2006, provided the company meets certain financial goals. Semel can buy the shares at $34.75 each once they vest.

Typically, all those stock options would vest over four years.

Semel also received another 250,000 shares that he can sell in three years. The company did not increase Semel's base pay, which is $600,000 annually.

The former Hollywood movie studio boss flirted briefly with Disney Inc. when it was looking for a successor to chief executive Michael Eisner, who is retiring in October.

Yahoo's market value has tripled since Semel's 2001 arrival, restoring more than $30 billion in shareholder wealth that evaporated after the company's stock crashed from a split-adjusted high of $118.75 per share in 2000. The stock gained 66 percent in 2004.

On Tuesday, Yahoo's stock rose 8 cents to close at $35.15 in trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Semel rejuvenated Yahoo by streamlining its operations, creating more subscription services and positioning the company's Web site as an online advertising hub. He also pulled off several major acquisitions that have boosted the company's profit.

AP Business Writer

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