Last week it was discovered that Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson allegedly lied about his academic qualifications, then on Sunday he resigned. Now it turns out that he might have cancer. Guy Daniels reports.
Do you Yahoo? I don’t, am I’m not alone, as the struggling internet company fights to remain relevant in our fast changing online world. Do you lie on your CV to get a high-paid job? Again, no I don’t, but it looks like Scott Thompson did.
Apparently, the (until yesterday) CEO of Yahoo claimed he had a bachelor’s degree in “accounting and computer science” – a fact mentioned on his CV, on various Yahoo webpages and Securities Exchange Commission filings. Except that he never received such a degree – he only has a pure “accounting” qualification. Maybe it was an oversight (stop laughing out there!), or maybe it was just a little embellishment, or maybe it just plain old fraud. Either way, after just four months in the top job, Thompson has paid for his mistake and has left the building, taking the chairman with him.
Ross Levinsohn, EVP and head of global media, has been named interim CEO, effective immediately. Thompson’s photo has already been airbrushed out of the Yahoo media archive. Fred Amoroso becomes the new chairman of the board, replacing Roy Bostock.
Last Tuesday, Yahoo created a special committee, chaired by Fred Amoroso and two other directors, to:
“conduct a thorough review of CEO Scott Thompson’s academic credentials, as well as the facts and circumstances related to the review and disclosure of those credentials in connection with Thompson’s appointment as CEO.”
It’s job done, Thompson was obviously found to be wanting (and indeed, Bostock’s management of the appointment was also apparently below the standards expected of such august gentlemen) and immediate action was taken. Yahoo’s spin doctor’s managed to say very little about Thompson’s departure, and gave away no specifics.
In a related move, Daniel Loeb, Harry Wilson, and Michael Wolf also join the board, following a settlement with Third Point. It was the Third Point hedge fund, which owns around 6 per cent of Yahoo’s shares, that uncovered Thompson’s CV cock-up (which Yahoo’s spinners tried to describe as “an inadvertent error”) and demanded his dismissal.
Not only did they win that battle, but Third Point owner Loeb and two of his directors now get a seat at the Yahoo table. You wonder what else they may have discovered…
It now transpires that Thompson reportedly told Yahoo’s board last week that he has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The Wall Street Journal reported that the cancer was a contributing factor to his resignation, and the paper also cites colleagues of Thompson as saying that he wasn’t responsible for “the error” in his academic record.
The paper does not name its source, but reports that the cancer diagnosis was only made “in recent days”, whilst the board was investigating Thompson’s CV. The source said that Thompson didn’t want to publicly discuss the cancer diagnosis because he wanted to keep personal details private. Whether or not Thompson knew that one of his close friends was about to blow the story to the Wall Street Journal remains unclear, and Thompson has so far not commented or confirmed this news.
Whatever his role in the mess over his CV, I’m sure the whole industry would wish him luck in fighting his battle with cancer, if this fact does unfortunately proof to be true. Getting back to the qualifications (or lack of) debate, Thompson apparently told colleagues and Yahoo’s board he was unaware of the error until it was discovered by Third Point. However, the WSJ has discovered that the executive-search firm that got him his previous job at PayPal had informed Yahoo’s board that it had evidence that would contradict those claims.
What has been very telling is the lack of any acknowledgement of Thompson’s role in the past four months, or any thanks whatsoever. It is common when a CEO resigns for the company to issue a couple of lines of praise, even if they couldn’t wait to see the back of him or her. Not in this case. The only reference to Thompson in the company’s press statements was this pathetic line:
“Mr. Levinsohn replaces Scott Thompson, former Chief Executive Officer, who has left the Company.”
Which, of course, suggests that the board forced his hand, and that this was a sacking in all but name. Levinsohn issued a staff memo yesterday, which leaked its way all over the internet, obviously. In it, he says:
“Today’s announcements really boil down to this: following these changes, a transformation and renewal at the Board level that began in August of last year is now complete. Of course, these changes will also raise new questions along with those it answers. Please also look for an invite and plan to attend an all-hands meeting we are organizing for Monday afternoon.”
So, until later today…
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