Disgraced Yahoo! CEO Steps Down

It’s been a weird week, even by Yahoo! standards. CEO Scott Thompson has resigned from the company after only four months on the job, in the wake of an academic-padding controversy triggered by an activist shareholder proxy battle. But it turns out that Thompson apparently discovered he had thyroid cancer while Yahoo! was investigating the claims. So he might have been stepping down anyway.

“Scott Thompson, former Chief Executive Officer, has left the Company,” a terse Yahoo! statement notes. “The Board of Directors has named Ross Levinsohn as interim Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately.”

Thompson’s ouster began as part of a bloody proxy battle that was being fought by Third Point, which owns 5.8 percent of Yahoo!’s stock. The firm launched its fight against Yahoo! and its board of directors, arguing that the struggling online giant should have more aggressively pursued a merger with Microsoft and selected board members who will act in the best interests of the company and its shareholders.

Third Point argued that Yahoo!’s CEO, Mr. Thompson, and several board members were unsuitable for the company and that the Yahoo! board of directors engaged in “wrongdoing” or “mismanagement” in those selections. It offered as proof the fact that Mr. Thompson did not have a degree in computer science despite listing the credential on his resume for several years. Likewise, various board members falsified their credentials as well.

An internal investigation revealed that the charges were true. Mr. Thompson has resigned, as have three board members. And Yahoo! has settled the proxy battle with Third Point, and will allow three of the company’s nominees to join the Yahoo! board of directors. Fred Amoroso has been named Yahoo!’s chairman of the board, replacing Roy Bostock, who has stepped down to “accelerate the leadership transition for the new Board.” In short, this appears to be a total victory for Third Point.

Among the new board members is Dan Loeb, the activist fund manager who led the proxy battle at Third Point. “[We] are delighted to join the Yahoo! board and work collaboratively with our fellow directors to foster a culture of leadership dedicated to innovation, excellence in corporate governance, and responsiveness to users, advertisers, and partners,” he noted. “We are confident this board will benefit from shareholder representation, and we are committed to working with new leadership to unlock Yahoo!'s significant potential and value."

As for Mr. Thompson, a Wall Street Journal report claims that he told the Yahoo! board last week that he just discovered he has thyroid cancer. He had previously asserted that he never made any claim about having a computer science degree and argued that he had not provided Yahoo! with a resume. But evidence arose that apparently discredited those claims.

Thompson’s departure from Yahoo! was finalized over the weekend, according to sources.

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