After the revelation that his resume was puffed up with unearned educational credentials, Yahoo on Sunday announced the resignation of CEO Scott Thompson. Thompson replaced the ousted Carol Bartz as chief just four months ago, in January.
The controversy began earlier this month when Daniel Loeb, CEO of Third Point, took issue with Thompson and the board. Loeb, whose fund owns a 5.8 percent stake in Yahoo, was reportedly trying to shake up the board with the revelation that Thompson doesn't have a bachelor's degree in computer science as is indicated on his resume. If that was his intention, it worked.
In addition to Thompson resigning, Ross Levinsohn moved from non-executive chair to interim CEO, and director Fred Amoroso will become chairman, replacing Roy Bostock, the non-executive chairman, who is leaving the board immediately.
Those moves helped Yahoo reach an agreement with Third Point to settle a pending proxy contest related to its 2012 annual meeting of shareholders.
Was Thompson Too Impolitic?
Under the board's settlement agreement with Third Point, three Third Point nominees -- Loeb, Harry J. Wilson, and Michael J. Wolf -- will join the Yahoo board. As interim CEO, Levinsohn will manage the company's day-to-day operations.
We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his thoughts on Thompson's resignation. When news of the resume issue first arose, Sterling, among many others, didn't think it would derail Thompson's role at Yahoo.
"I think there are a number of things going on in Scott Thompson's resignation-termination, or forced resignation, if you prefer. The scandal over his resume wouldn't go away," Sterling said.
"That was in part because it was being used by hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb as part of a proxy fight with Yahoo. Loeb helped create and fueled the PR crisis to gain leverage in negotiations. He now has three board seats."
Thompson may have done a number of impolitic things to alienate various constituencies within and outside of Yahoo that caused doubts to emerged about his strategy and leadership, Sterling said.
"That, coupled with the ethical breach, forced Yahoo to essentially terminate Thompson," Sterling said. "Ironically, Ross Levinsohn may turn out to be a better CEO than Thompson and perhaps in that way Yahoo will benefit from this fiasco ultimately."
Yahoo's Checkered CEO History
Yahoo can't seem to keep a long-term CEO. Bartz took the reins in January 2009, replacing company co-founder Jerry Yang. Bartz was charged with turning Yahoo around, but her time ran out. At the time, Bostock said the board didn't believe Bartz was capitalizing on the enormous growth opportunities Yahoo was facing.
Yang had resigned in November 2008 after coming back to the chief position at the board's request in June 2007. Like Bartz, Yang was charged with leading the company through a strategic repositioning and transformation of its platform.
Yang replaced chairman and CEO Terry Semel, who called it quits after a showdown with shareholders. He was on watch while stock prices dipped 20 percent in an 18-month period. Semel created more than $30 billion in shareholder value in his seven years with the firm.