Yang Steps Down As Yahoo CEO, Search For Successor Begins

Expect Yahoo’s share price to jump tomorrow – Jerry Yang will be stepping down as CEO of the company, a job that he took on an interim basis in June 2007.

Yang will return to his former role as Chief Yahoo, and will remain on the board of directors. The company has hired executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles to find the new CEO.

This was an unavoidable event, and in our opinion Yang took too long to step down. In May it was clear that Yang’s heart was no longer in it, and he reconfirmed that last month at the Web 2.0 Summit. Under his watch the company has lost tens of billions of dollars in market cap and thousands of former Yahoo employees (and hundreds of execs) are now gone.

How much of the downfall was his fault? It’s impossible to say, except that he takes full responsibility for mishandling the Microsoft acquisition offer last February. One thing you have to love is Yang’s tenacity in keeping Yahoo an independent company at any cost. But what shareholders and employees need is a leader with an actual plan.

Who will be the next CEO? We speculated back in June that Jeff Mallet or Dan Rosensweig were possible candidates. Mallet wouldn’t consider the job, we’ve heard. But Rosensweig would probably take it if offered.

Whoever ends up with the job, let’s just hope it’s an outsider. Yahoo is being clear that they are considering internal candidates. President Sue Decker is likely being considered. But ex-execs we’ve spoken with say she was a big part of the problem at Yahoo, and if she takes over as CEO it will likely be more of the same.

The press release:

Yahoo! Conducting Search for New CEO
Co-Founder Jerry Yang to Step Down Following Appointment of New CEO
and Return to Former Role as Chief Yahoo! and Board Member

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Nov 17, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) —

Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO) today announced that its Board of Directors has initiated a search for a new Chief Executive Officer. Jerry Yang, co-Founder of Yahoo!, has decided to return to his former role as Chief Yahoo! upon the appointment of his successor as CEO, and he will also continue to serve on the Board. Yang, 40, assumed the CEO role at the Board’s request in June 2007, and he has led Yahoo! through a strategic repositioning and transformation of its platform.

Chairman Roy Bostock, working with the independent directors and in consultation with Jerry Yang, is leading the process of assessing potential candidates and determining finalists for consideration. The search will encompass both internal and external candidates, and the Board has retained Heidrick & Struggles, a leading international executive search firm, to assist in the process.

“Over the past year and a half, despite extraordinary challenges and distractions, Jerry Yang has led the repositioning of Yahoo! on an open platform model as well as the improved alignment of costs and revenues,” said Roy Bostock. “Jerry and the Board have had an ongoing dialogue about succession timing, and we all agree that now is the right time to make the transition to a new CEO who can take the company to the next level. We are deeply grateful to Jerry for his many contributions as CEO over the past 18 months, and we are pleased that he plans to stay actively involved at Yahoo! as a key executive and member of the Board.”

“From founding this company to guiding its growth into a trusted global brand that is indispensible to millions of people, I have always sought to do what is best for our franchise,” said Jerry Yang. “When the Board asked me to become CEO and lead the transformation of the Company, I did so because it was important to re-envision the business for a different era to drive more effective growth. Having set Yahoo! on a new, more open path, the time is right for me to transition the CEO role and our global talent to a new leader. I will continue to focus on global strategy and to do everything I can to help Yahoo! realize its full potential and enhance its leading culture of technology and product excellence and innovation.”