Report: Scott Thompson To Step Down As Yahoo CEO, Ross Levinsohn To Step In

Kara Swisher at AllThingsD is reporting that embattled Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is going to step down for “personal reasons.” Swisher has one or more “moles” inside the company and consistently gets inside information — which generally turns out to be correct.

Thompson’s “personal reasons,” as we all know, are: misrepresenting that he had a computer science degree. Yahoo EVP Ross Levinsohn is reportedly set to become interim CEO, with the apparent hope that he could take the helm permanently.

Swisher adds that the situation is still in flux and could change. The board is apparently meeting this morning.

Shareholder and hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb aggressively pushed for Thompson’s ouster and kept pressure on the board. It’s seems relatively clear that the ethics issue was an opportunity for Loeb to push his agenda.

He stoked a public-relations crisis at Yahoo that gave him more leverage in asserting demands and extracting concessions from the board. Indeed, as part of a Yahoo “settlement” with Loeb, he is “set to get three board seats from a slate proposed by him as part of a proxy fight aimed at Yahoo,” according to AllThingsD.

When the news first broke that Thompson didn’t have the computer science degree he claimed I didn’t believe it would result in his ultimate resignation. After all, he had many years of experience as a successful tech executive in Silicon Valley. In other words, he had the desired experience; the paper was a technicality of sorts — not to minimize the ethics issue.

Yet the scandal refused to go away and had become a major PR headache for Yahoo and a distraction for employees. Yahoo announced Thompson’s appointment as CEO in early January of this year. The Yahoo director who was instrumental in Thompson’s hiring, Patti Hart, resigned last week. But that didn’t put the matter to rest or satisfy Loeb.

Yahoo has endured a remarkably tumultuous period over the past three or so years. It has seen multiple CEOs, the disruption of the Microsoft search deal, waves of layoffs and executive departures as well as multiple reorganizations and strategy shifts. What an amazing and sad spectacle.

Thompson had begun to execute on a new turnaround plan, including reducing headcount at Yahoo by 2,000 employees. Levinsohn came in under previous CEO Carol Bartz and is well regarded inside the company and in the industry. His background is very different from Thompson’s. It’s not clear whether he’ll now want to put his own stamp on the company or will proceed with Thompson’s plan.

Before coming to Yahoo, Levinsohn was president of Fox Interactive Media.

Out earlier today came the Yahoo release announcing Levinsohn’s appointment and that of Fred Amoroso as the new Chairman of the Yahoo Board.

Postscript, 11:15 pm PT by Matt McGee: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Thompson told Yahoo’s board of directors that he’s been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and that his decision to leave the Yahoo CEO post was influenced “in part” by the diagnosis.

Photo credit: Wikipedia Wikimedia Commons


Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Top News | Yahoo: Business Issues | Yahoo: Employees | Yahoo: General


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Widya Puteri

    nice :)

  • Michael Martinez

    Yahoo!’s other stockholders should start worrying now that Loeb is about to pull another Carl Icahn on Yahoo!  That poor company just seems to attract the worst possible investment fund managers.

  • cutey

    Paper doesn’t matter, if he did a good job why care.

  • Greg Sterling

    @cutey. I subscribe to that view (as I said above) to some degree. But the “scandal that wouldn’t die” quality of all this plus other things going on behind the scenes were likely in play. 

  • cryptblade

    1. He’s an outsider with no tech-media experience (i.e. he wasn’t poached from Google or Facebook).
    2. He’s brand new to Yahoo.
    3. He was quick to throw some executive recruiting firm from years back under the bus.
    4. He never took any responsibility or held himself accountable – ALL THESE YEARS.
    5. “Good job”? What has he done?

    Thus, he’s not done a good job, he’s not done any job at all. He’s an outsider without the proper credentials and hasn’t built ANY trust with Yahoo and already his integrity and honesty HAS to be questioned.

    Really – stop being so naive. If you were a Yahoo employee and your BRAND NEW CEO blatantly LIED about his credentials and blamed someone ELSE, how motivated would you be and how much would you trust HIM to be the navigator of your career or longevity in the company???

  • cryptblade

    Greg, ‘Cutey” is wrong.

    Put it into perspective of a Yahoo employee. If your brand new CEO, who’s barely started to try to captain the Yahoo ship is embroiled in controversy over his honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness, how would you feel?

    You’ve already gone through Terry Semel, Jerry Yang, and Carol Bartz. You witnessed an attempted hostile takeover by Carl Icahn and held your breadth waiting to see if you will be forced to become Microsoft – only to find out if you are part of the Search business, you DID become vassals if not serfs to Microsoft. How would you POSSIBLY look at this mess and go “huzzah, we are headed in the right direction”.

    No, it would add more embarrassment and cause you to think “we are going no where soon, my raise and promotion won’t be coming, and I won’t further my career with more great projects and initiatives.”

    If you’ve not been in a company that is either stagnant or slowly dying, then you are completely ignorant of how utterly defeating that kind of atmosphere is.

    It is better for Yahoo to DUMP this guy and promote someone from within to better move on. Screw the shareholders though.

  • Joe Youngblood

    My resume suddenly looks amazing…

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  • Jeremy Wilson

    If I were a Yahoo employee I think I would be more concerned with your bumbling board members that hire all these CEOs that go nowhere but down. If the same people are choosing the leadership (to push their own agendas) there is little likelihood that the new guy will do any better

  • Content Axis

    I don’t think it should be fair to suspend a person for the simple reason that he didn’t have degree on computer. It would have been considered right at the time of recruitment.

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