Tuesday, June 19, 2007

USA Today: Yahoo co-founder Yang becomes CEO

From today's USA Today:

By Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY

Yahoo (YHOO) co-founder Jerry Yang on Monday stepped in as CEO at the struggling Internet giant — saying it's not too late for Yahoo to be No. 1 again.

"We have all the assets to win," said Yang, taking over for Terry Semel.

Semel, a former Warner Bros. executive who had been CEO since 2001, had been under investor pressure to resign over his high pay ($71.7 million in 2006) and Yahoo's underperforming stock. Company shares are down 30% since the end of 2005.

At Yahoo's annual meeting a week ago, Semel said he was committed to reviving the company's fortunes. On a conference call Monday, he said, "This is the right thing to do for Yahoo, and the right time to do it."

Semel will remain as non-executive chairman. Sue Decker, who served as executive vice president and head of advertising, was named president.

Eric Jackson, a Yahoo investor who led a shareholder group pressuring Semel to step aside, applauded the move. "There were too many missed opportunities," he says.

Yahoo, once the No. 1 website, has steadily lost ground to rival Google (GOOG), which dominates Internet advertising. Yahoo this year introduced an overhauled search advertising program, but the company has said investors wouldn't see major gains until the end of the year.

Yahoo reported $6.5 billion in revenue in 2006, compared with $10 billion for Google. In the first quarter of 2007, Google announced record profits of $1 billion, compared with $142 million for Yahoo.

"Yahoo had to do something," says Chris Winfield, who runs 10e20, a New York firm that helps businesses run search-marketing campaigns. "I'm hoping Jerry gets in there and really tries to fight to get Yahoo back on top, so Google isn't the only option in town."

Yang started Yahoo in 1995 at Stanford University with fellow grad student David Filo, as a
directory of Internet sites. Filo, who had shared the "Chief Yahoo" title with Yang, will continue working on Yahoo technology, the company said.

Yang said his top priority was reinvigorating Yahoo. "We started with a vision and a dream, and make no mistake, the dream is still alive," he said. "We want to be a better Yahoo."

Yang isn't the only company founder recently to return to the helm. Jeffrey Citron, founder of Internet phone service Vonage, returned as CEO in April; Michael Dell returned to the head of the PC-maker that bears his name in January, after the company fell on hard times.

Investors cheered the shakeup. Yahoo stock rose 4.5% in after-hours trading to close at $29.38.

Contributing: Michelle Kessler

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