Yahoo confirms CEO is out after resume scandal
POSTED: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 12:00pm
UPDATED: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 12:04pm
NATIONAL NEWS (CNN) — Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is out after it was found he padded his resume with an embellished college degree, ending his term at the company after just four months.
Yahoo confirmed Thompson "has left the company" in a statement posted late Sunday, after two news reports. Tech blog AllThingsD was the first to report the news, and the New York Times followed up with its own article.
Yahoo media chief Ross Levinsohn will be named interim CEO, the company said. Levinsohn had earlier been rumored as a successor to Carol Bartz, who was fired from Yahoo by phone in September. Instead, Thompson took the CEO role in January.
Thompson's resume scandal ignited just over a week ago, when activist shareholder group Third Point alleged that Thompson lied about details of his college degree.
The saga took an even more dramatic twist Monday morning, when the Wall Street Journal reported that Thompson has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. His decision to step down from Yahoo was "in part influenced" by the recent diagnosis, the newspaper said.
New board members: Dan Loeb, the CEO of Third Point, has a long history of launching proxy fights -- and Yahoo was the latest company in his crosshairs. Third Point owns about 5.8% of Yahoo, and is the largest outside shareholder. In February, Third Point filed paperwork proposing four new Yahoo board members, including Loeb himself.
At first, Yahoo didn't want to play ball. But Third Point scored a coup by finding and exposing Thompson's padded resume.
Now, Yahoo has settled with Loeb to end the proxy fight. On Sunday, Yahoo and Third Point released a joint statement explaining the terms.
Yahoo will add three of Third Point's proposed nominees to the board: Loeb himself; Harry Wilson, the CEO of corporate restructuring and turnaround firm Maeva; and Michael Wolf, CEO of media consulting company Activate.
The fourth Third Point-proposed nominee, former NBC Universal CEO Jeffrey Zucker, said in the companies' statement that he removed himself from consideration in order to more easily broker a settlement.
Loeb said in the statement Sunday that he, Wilson and Wolf are "committed to working with new leadership to unlock Yahoo's significant potential and value."
In addition, Yahoo said Sunday that it named Fred Amoroso, an existing board member, as chairman. The chairman position had been in play since a February board shakeup that wiped out most of Yahoo's previous directors.
In an internal Yahoo e-mail obtained by CNN's Dan Simon, interim CEO Levinsohn acknowledged the "very bumpy road we've traveled."
But, he said, Sunday's announcements "lay to rest the unfortunate and serious distractions surrounding our senior leadership and the composition of our Board going forward."
Levinsohn closed the e-mail by saying Yahoo will "go on the offensive starting today."
Representatives from both Yahoo and Third Point declined to comment beyond the joint statement.
False statements: Thompson's published Yahoo bios -- including the one in the company's latest annual report, a legal document that CEOs must personally swear are truthful -- have claimed that he holds a bachelor's degree in both accounting and computer science from Stonehill College. His degree is actually in accounting only.
Yahoo called the mistake an "inadvertent error." The board said this week that it had hired outside counsel to conduct a review of the false statement. Soon after, the director who led Yahoo's CEO search committee, Patti Hart, announced that she would step down at the end of her current term.
False statements about Thompson's degree stretch beyond his time at Yahoo, which began in January. References to a "computer science" degree also appeared in his online biographical information on PayPal's website when Thompson was president of the eBay subsidiary.
Thompson's degree information is listed accurately in eBay's regulatory filings and in the bio featured in filings for F5, where he serves as a director. In both cases, the companies state: "Mr. Thompson holds a B.S. in Accounting from Stonehill College," with no reference to a computer science degree.
But the false statement about his degree appeared in Yahoo's latest annual report filed to the SEC: "Mr. Thompson holds a Bachelor's degree in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College."
Those errant three words could mean big trouble for Thompson and Yahoo. CEOs are required to personally certify that their company's SEC filings are accurate.