If you haven’t heard the news, Yahoo!’s got a new CEO—kind of. Scott Thompson stepped down after a rather embarrassing inconsistency (read ‘lie’) was discovered in his corporate bio, and he’s been replaced by Interim CEO Ross Levinsohn.
Thompson’s padded resume (he claimed to have a degree in computer science) was outed by Daniel Loeb, hedge fund manager atThird Point LLC, Yahoo!’s single largest shareholder at nearly 6% of its stock.
There are many who are bearish about the future of Yahoo! A public company did not do a thorough background check on hiring a CEO. Add to this that Yahoo! has been struggling over the last few years next to the growing giants that are Google and Facebook.
However, I’m pretty excited. I’m hoping “Interim” CEO Ross Levinsohn is here to stay. Levinsohn’s has what Yahoo! needs – a dynamic background in media. Because that is what Yahoo! is - a media company.
And not to mention, Levinsohn has got the support, with the backing of activist investor Loeb’s Third Point LLC.
Despite many believing Yahoo! is a former dynasty whose glory days are long gone, Levinsohn is skeptical, and I am too. It’s worth remembering Yahoo! sees 700 million users around the world every month, and makes $4 billion in annual revenue. Not chump change in anyone’s language.
The Board is getting a much-needed shake-up, as Daniel Loeb and the Third Point LLC fund have gained three seats under the settlement agreement. Loeb, Harry J. Wilson and Michael J. Wolf joined the Yahoo! Board as of May 16. Fred Amoroso, who has been leading the investigation into Thomson’s background, was appointed board chairman. A more engaged and self-interested (these guys are shareholders) Board can only mean good things.
Yahoo!’s hopes also lie in its “Asian assets”. It holds 41% stake in Chinese Internet Group Alibaba, as well as a valuable stake in Yahoo! Japan. These assets are worth more than Yahoo! on its own. And Alibaba Group just repurchased a 20% stake from Yahoo! for a minimum purchase price of $7.1 billion, one of the largest Internet transactions of all time.
Interim CEO Ross Levinsohn is bridging technology and media. He has already announced plans to send 25 journalists to cover the Summer Olympics this year, as well as to work on deepening a relationship with ABC News through a weekly online digital series hosted by Katie Couric. He’s acting like a classic media company – make content which you can sell advertising against.
And by the way, for the record, Levinsohn has a BA in Communications from American University (at least that is what his bio says).