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Yahoo names Levinsohn interim CEO
“It is very different to be CEO of a growth company, making choices between opportunities, and to be CEO of a company in turnaround mode, whose parts are declining or losing share,” Kirjner said.
Thompson’s inaccurate resume might have been more forgivable at a company that was posting big returns for its shareholders, said James Post, a management professor at Boston University. But it’s likely that Third Point was looking for an excuse to get rid of Thompson, Post said.
“They’ve had expensive and talented investigators turning over every rock and pebble to find something they could use for leverage,” said Post, who specializes in corporate governance and professional ethics.
The resume fiasco has had a relatively limited effect on the stock price. Shares fell 1.6 percent to $15.15 on May 4, the day after Third Point unleashed the news about Thompson’s resume. They closed at $15.19 on Friday. They’re up from their $14.44 close on Sept. 8 when Loeb sent his first missive to Yahoo’s board urging changes at the company.
But long-term, shares have fallen. They’re down about 12 percent compared to a year ago. They’re down 46 percent from Feb. 1, 2008, when they soared almost 50 percent after Microsoft offered to buy the company for $31 a share. Yahoo’s board rejected the deal, saying it wasn’t enough. Four of the five directors who are leaving were on the board at that time. Yahoo’s stock hasn’t traded above $20 since September 2008.
“Yahoo has been embattled for such a long time that there are a lot of people prepared to believe the worst about that company,” Post said. “When you’re angry at the management and the board, when nothing’s going right and you’re losing money, it’s understandable that shareholders would adopt an `off with their head’ attitude.”
Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at Pivotal Research, said he believes Thompson’s ouster will be a positive move, removing an overhanging distraction and adding board members with new perspectives. Wieser said employees he’d talked to believed Thompson was showing a lack of appreciation for some of Yahoo’s business units, and that morale had degenerated even more during his tenure. “It was bad,” Wieser said, “and went to worse.”
Wieser said that Third Point is “exactly the kind of investor every company should want,” since the hedge fund is apparently trying to heal Yahoo, not break it up. “There are no barbarians at the gate here,” Wieser said. “They’re actually trying to help.”
Liedtke reported from San Francisco.
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