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Yahoo names Levinsohn interim CEO
NEW YORK (AP) - Yahoo swept out Scott Thompson as CEO Sunday in an effort to clean up a mess created by an exaggeration about his education that destroyed his credibility as he set out to turnaround the long-troubled Internet company.
Yahoo hired Thompson, the former head of eBay’s PayPal, in January to orchestrate a reversal. Though, Yahoo is one of the Internet’s most-visited websites, the company has struggled to grow in face of competition from the likes of Google and Facebook. The company’s difficulties have irked investors. Thompson took the helm as Yahoo’s fourth chief executive in less than five years.
Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock and four other directors who had already announced plans to step down at the company’s annual meeting later this year are leaving the board immediately. Three of the spots will be filled by activist hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, a disgruntled shareholder who dropped a bombshell that led to Thompson’s departure, and two of his allies, former MTV Networks executive Michael Wolf and turnaround specialist Harry Wilson.
The appointment of the new directors ends a potentially disruptive battle with Loeb, who was waging a campaign to gain four seats on the company’s board. Loeb wound up settling with three board seats and the satisfaction of ushering out Thompson, who antagonized Loeb in late March by telling him he wasn’t qualified for the board.
Yahoo Inc. gave no official explanation for Thompson’s departure, but it was clearly tied to inaccuracies that appeared on Thompson’s biography on the company’s website and in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The bio listed two degrees _ in accounting and computer science _ from Stonehill College, a small school near Boston. Loeb discovered Thompson never received a computer science degree from the college and exposed the fabrication in a May 3 letter to Yahoo’s board. The revelation raised questions about why the accomplishment had periodically appeared on his bio in the years while he was running PayPal, an online payment service owned by eBay Inc.
Yahoo initially stood behind Thompson, brushing off the inclusion of the bogus degree as an “inadvertent error,” but harsh criticism from employees, shareholders and corporate governance experts prompted the board to appoint a special committee to investigate how the fabrication occurred.
Thompson, 54, spent much of the past week scrambling to save his job. He sent out a memo to employees to apologize for the distractions caused by news of the illusory degree and then sought to assure other Yahoo executives that he wasn’t the source of the inaccuracy. He blamed a Chicago headhunting firm, Heidrick & Struggles.
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. On Sunday, a spokesman for the firm declined to comment.
Thompson’s rapid downfall leaves Yahoo in turmoil amid a reorganization that had only just begun. Last month, Thompson laid off 2,000 employees, or 14 percent of the workforce, in the biggest payroll purge in the company’s history, and had started to identify about 50 services that he wanted to close or sell.
Now it falls to Levinsohn, who Thompson had promoted to a more prominent role last week, to get Yahoo back on track. He joined Yahoo 18 months ago when the company was still being run by Carol Bartz, who was fired in September because she hadn’t developed an effective turnaround plan.
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