Yahoo boss quits amid 'fake CV' claims

14/05/2012

Yahoo's Chief Executive Officer Scott Thompson has stepped down after just four months at the helm, following claims his CV featured a computer science degree that he never received. After a board meeting the company announced that Thompson would be immediately replaced by former News Corp executive Ross Levinsohn.

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Thompson was brought in from PayPal, the online payment firm where he was president, in January. The company's difficulties have angered investors and Thompson, 54, took the helm as Yahoo's fourth chief executive in less than five years.

Thompson's abrupt exit was encouraged by Third Point, the activist hedge fund that owns nearly 6% of Yahoo shares. Third Point claimed Thompson had exaggerated his CV with a degree in computer science from Stonehill College.

He did earn an accounting degree from Stonehill, a Catholic school near Boston, in 1979, a fact that Yahoo correctly lists, but did not earn a computer science degree.

Thompson reportedly blamed the error on a head-hunting firm, Heidrick & Struggles, which had worked on Yahoo's search for a chief executive officer.

However, in an internal memo last week, Heidrick & Struggles denied Thompson's accusation. "This allegation is verifiably not true and we have notified Yahoo! to that effect," CEO Kevin Kelly wrote to employees.

Third Point's CEO, Dan Loeb, and two of the hedge fund's other nominees will join the Yahoo board. Five directors who had planned to leave later this year will now leave immediately.

Interim CEO Levinsohn is someone that Loeb had suggested for the job. In a statement issued through Yahoo, Loeb said he was "delighted" to join the Yahoo board and promised to "work collaboratively with our fellow directors".

Yahoo gave no official explanation for Thompson's departure, but it was clearly tied to inaccuracies that appeared on his biography on the company's website and in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Despite a massive online presence, Yahoo has been struggling for years to keep up with Google and Facebook. In a bid to cut its losses, Thompson had announced a reorganisation at Yahoo and planned to lose 2,000 workers, or about 14% of the workforce.

Yahoo said Roy Bostock, the company's chairman, would also leave and be replaced by Fred Amoroso, a veteran technology executive.

Yahoo dumped its previous CEO, Carol Bartz, in September, disappointed that she had not been able to increase revenue. When Thompson came on board, he made big changes immediately. Co-founder Jerry Yang left the board in January.

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