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Yahoo's Santa Monica office ditches Hollywood perks in bow to frugality

December 16, 2008 |  5:13 pm

Terry SemelThe perks of being a Yahoo are vanishing along with the jobs.

The Santa Monica satellite office, which once hosted veteran television executive Lloyd Braun and boasted ambitions of muscling in on the entertainment industry, is reversing its Hollywoodification.

Case in point: No more reserved parking spaces for executives. "Going forward, all Santa Monica Yahoos will have equal access to the close-in spots," according to a memo distributed to Santa Monica employees obtained by the L.A. Times.

Give Yahoo a yodel for such a positive spin on bad news. Assigned parking is just one of the Hollywood perks that used to rile the rank-and-file in Yahoo's Sunnyvale headquarters where geeks rule, executives work in cubicles and everyone eats in the company cafeteria.

(Braun also converted a conference room with a patio into his personal office and requested a corporate jet for the Santa Monica office. Oh, and there was the time he reportedly took an umbrella without paying for it from the Yahoo store on a rainy day and then asked the clerk who requested payment: "Do you know who I am?" He later explained that he just wanted to make sure the clerk knew he was good for it. But we digress).

The point is that today's all-hands memo signals a stark new era of austerity that overshadows the elimination of the last vestiges of the corporate culture war spurred by the hiring of former Warner Bros. chieftain Terry Semel and ABC's Braun.

It's hard to imagine how times could get any tougher for Yahoo. The once-mighty Internet giant was already struggling to get its groove back after bungling takeover talks with Microsoft when the economy decided to roll over and play dead.

So now this is going to mean "some inconvenience and expense" for Yahoos (the same ones still reeling from mass layoffs that began last week) as the company focuses its resources "on the things that are truly important," according to the Yahoo memo.

Translation: Starting Jan. 1, Yahoos will have to give up their coffee cards (there will still be self-brew Starbucks to perk up depressed Yahoos) and the delivery of fruit, bagels and muffins. Sodas and snacks in vending machines will now cost 50 cents.

Note that free valet service will continue. This is Hollywood, after all.

-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: Hollywood mogul and former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press.

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