/// They Shoot Yahoo CEOs, Don’t They? But Not Without a Really Smoking Gun and a Much Stronger Board
Earlier today, Yahoo’s persistent thorn, activist shareholder Dan Loeb of Third Point poison- penned another letter to the board of the Silicon Valley Internet company, demanding that Yahoo fire its new CEO Scott Thompson, as well as director Patti Hart, over bizarre inaccuracies related their academic achievements. “Permitting Mr. Thompson and Ms. Hart to stay with the Company after apparently violating the Code of Ethics sends a message to all Yahoo! employees that a different set of rules applies at the top,” Loeb wrote.”[Yahoo must] terminate Mr. Thompson for cause immediately given his demonstrable unsuitability to remain Chief Executive Officer and a director of Yahoo! and accept the resignation of Ms. Hart for similar reasons.” And while many across the blogosphere — including some very clever tweets — called for his head tout de suite, that’s just not going to happen. At least for now , at this early point in a controversy over Yahoo filing legal documents that misrepresented Thompson’s long-ago degree from Stonehill College. In a nutshell: Thompson does not have a computer science degree, as he had maintained he did in public bios for almost a decade, a falsehood that mysteriously seeped into documents Yahoo filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That’s bad news for Yahoo, for sure, on many levels, but moving against Thompson at this moment is not likely to be the answer — for the short term, at least. That’s due to many reasons, that I like to think of as three hopelessly complex puzzles that need solving pronto. The What-Did-Yahoo-Know-and-When-Did-It-Know-It Question There is no question the first thing Yahoo’s board needs to do is a thorough investigation to determine how a borked bio could proliferate so widely and for so long. Most importantly, Yahoo will have to reveal if Thompson actually gave them this incorrect information, as he aggressively lobbied for the then-open CEO job. As I had previously reported several times, Thompson cold-emailed a Yahoo director — Intuit CEO Brad Smith, as it turns out — despite not being on the list of potential candidates. Thompson was then shuttled over to Hart, who was running the vetting process with the help of headhunting firm Heidrick & Struggles, and hired within weeks. Oddly, sources said Thompson never filled out the required informational papers for the job, nor did Heidrick conduct the normal background check on him.