FORTUNE -- Here is what Carol Bartz thinks of the Yahoo (YHOO) board that fired her: "These people f---ed me over," she says, in her first interview since her dismissal from the CEO role late Tuesday.
Last evening, barely 24 hours after Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock called Bartz on her cell phone to tell her the news, she called from her Silicon Valley home ("There are reporters at the gate… a lot of them.") to tell Fortune, exclusively, how the ax came down.
On Tuesday, Bartz was in New York, to speak at Citigroup's (C) technology conference the next day, when she was supposed to call Bostock at 6 p.m. "I called him at 6:06," she recalls. When he got on the line, she says, he started reading a lawyer's prepared statement to dismiss her.
"I said, 'Roy, I think that's a script,'" adding, "'Why don't you have the balls to tell me yourself?'"
When Bostock finished reading, Bartz didn't argue—"I got it. I got it," she told the Yahoo chairman. "I thought you were classier," she added.
Recruited in January 2009 after successfully building Autodesk (ADSK), Bartz never was the turnaround chief that the Yahoo board had wanted. Though she slashed costs and improved profit margins, she failed to improve revenue growth at a critical time when Yahoo has lost eyeballs and ad dollars to Google (GOOG) and Facebook. "They want revenue growth," says Bartz about the Yahoo board, "even though they were told that we would not have revenue growth until 2012."
As Bartz sees it, Yahoo's search partnership with Microsoft (MSFT)—a deal she negotiated two years ago to offload costs—has Yahoo paying Microsoft 12% of its search revenue and limits current growth but will help the company long-term. She attributes the directors' impatience to the criticism they faced when they turned down a lucrative deal to sell Yahoo to Microsoft in 2007, before she arrived. "The board was so spooked by being cast as the worst board in the country," Bartz says. "Now they're trying to show that they're not the doofuses that they are." (Bostock, who is vice chairman of Delta Air Lines (DAL) and on Morgan Stanley's (MS) board as well as Yahoo's, declined to comment.)
After Tuesday's call from Bostock, Bartz says, she had two hours to let Yahoo know whether she would resign or allow the board to fire her. She called her husband, Bill, her three children--a son and two daughters—and her longtime assistant, Judy Flores. Learning that Yahoo's lawyers had gone to the St. Regis hotel to hand her papers, she ditched that hotel and booked herself into another. "Am I stupid?!" she asks, making clear that she took her career crisis into her own hands.
It was that evening when she pulled out her iPad and wrote an email to Yahoo's 14,000 employees:
I am very sad to tell you that I've just been fired over the phone by Yahoo's Chairman of the Board. It has been my pleasure to work with all of you and I wish you only the best going forward.
What does Bartz think of her successor, Tim Morse? "He's a great guy," she says. Morse was chief financial officer under Bartz, and now he is interim chief of a company whose stock has risen 6% since he replaced her. Asked whom she thinks the board might appoint long-term, she replies, "They should bring me in. I knew what to do."
Sometimes it's difficult to know when Bartz is being serious. As I prod her to tell me what she might do next, I mention her age, 63—"fuck you, yeah," she replies. And when I ask her if she's on any other public company boards besides Cisco (CSCO), where she is lead independent director, she says, "I'm on Yahoo's board." She tells me that she plans to remain a Yahoo director—which might be unlikely since she has now called her fellow directors "doofuses."
"I want to make sure that the employees don't believe that I've abandoned them. I would never abandon them," Bartz says. Besides, she adds, "I have way too many purple clothes."
She's referring to the color of Yahoo's logo. "I wish the Yahoo people the best," she adds, "because it's a fantastic franchise."
Update: Did this interview just cost Bartz $10 million? Yes, she had a non-disparagement clause...
Also on Fortune.com:
When Ursula Burns went to Washington and met with President Obama last Friday, at least two people in the room personified her notion of what leads to great success: "The biggest differentiator is not how you are born," says the Chairman and CEO of Xerox (XRX). "It's how you're influenced throughout your life."
Barack Obama had a remarkable single mother to influence him. As did Burns, who grew up on New MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 16, 2011 10:55 AM ET
In every successful career there is a moment: You could quit. But you resist, wisely.
For Andrea Jung, the chairman and CEO of Avon Products (AVP), this moment happened right after college, when she was in the management training program at Bloomingdale's. All day everyday, there she was in the stockroom, switching vendor hangers for store hangers on thousands of pieces of clothes. "I remember calling my parents around Thanksgiving and MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 9, 2011 2:20 PM ET
The McDonald's (MCD) boss behind the healthy upgrade to its U.S. menu is practicing what she preaches: She recently lost 90 pounds.
Jan Fields, who started at McDonald's 33 years ago cooking fries and is now the fast food chain's U.S. president, was soon to turn 55 when, she says, "I woke up one day and said, "Oh my God, how did I gain this much weight?"
Like millions of her customers MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 2, 2011 3:38 PM ET
FORTUNE -- As the most powerful woman in children's television, Anne Sweeney meets a lot of girls who wish they were Selena Gomez or Miley Cyrus or tomorrow's superstar.
But Sweeney insists that she sees plenty of accomplished women in business who do that very same thing.
"I see a lot of women of every age trying to be something else," says Sweeney, the co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 19, 2011 2:34 PM ET
Fortune and Yahoo (YHOO) are teaming up to present weekly content -- stories and videos -- about Most Powerful Women. This is the first in a series of Postcards that will appear on Yahoo and Fortune.com.
It's the start of Most Powerful Women season at Fortune Magazine.
This is the time we begin hunting in earnest for the most successful women in business around the world. Fortune launched Most Powerful Women (MPW) in MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 29, 2011 9:30 AM ET
|Chrysler relents, agrees to recall 2.7 million Jeeps|
|Google files First Amendment court case against NSA surveillance secrecy|
|Immigration bill could cut deficits by $175 billion - CBO|
|China's fastest-growing cities for millionaires|
|It's official: Jack Lew's new signature|