Semel Resigns as CEO of Yahoo

    June 19, 2007

[Disclaimer: I’m CEO of Zooomr]

Wow. Those words "Yahoo Says Terry Semel Resigns as CEO" just ran across my Bloomberg terminal 10 minutes ago. Apparently Jerry Yang is going to step in as CEO and Sue Decker’s stepping in as President. The stock’s up 5% in the after market.


I can’t say that I’m really surprised by this. I’ve been a critic of Semel’s for a while now. More recently Semel came under a great deal of fire from Yahoo shareholders for his enormous pay package.

Last week I posted on Semel and particularly expressed concern over his whopping $71 millon plus pay package last year. According to the Associated Press this was more than any other CEO amongst 386 publicly held companies covered in the Associate Press analysis of nation’s top corporate paychecks.

Semel also has been accused of taking well over $400 million in his tenure from Yahoo coffers, despite lackluster stock performance and a blistering pounding in market cap as compared to rival Google. While Semel helped propel the company out of the great bear market of 2000-2002, in more recent years the company has lagged their competitors.

As far as I’m concerned I say good riddance. In my opinion Yahoo has over the past 3 years built an absolute all star line up of social media properties. They got many of the right pieces but could never execute on their vision of social search. Furthermore I believe that not only have they not executed on a vision of social search, but that they have bungled the communities that they have purchased and actually done more harm to the company than good.

Anecdotally, almost everyone I’ve talked to about Yahoo has expressed to me that the company is a wreck. That people are unhappy. That executives are leaving. That bureaucracy reigns supreme and that almost nothing can get done in the current environment. While there may be lots of reasons for this, at a certain point you have to look at your CEO and ask yourself if he is not in fact part of this problem. And this is what it would appear Yahoo has done today.

Hopefully with Semel’s departure Yahoo can use this as a catalyst to restore much of the beating that they’ve taken in public opinion recently. Their rejection last week of a shareholder anti-censorship proposal. The ongoing negative press that they continue to receive over their role in the jailing of Chinese journalist Shi Tao. The recent bout of censorship at Flickr. Hopefully Yahoo uses this departure to reposition the company as advocate for human rights. As anti-censorship. As the community powerhouse that they really could become.

Google is smart. For all the crap they get sometimes for the "Don’t Be Evil" thing, it’s carried them a certain distance as well. Paying Semel all that money was probably evil. Helping to jail Shi Tao was evil. Rejecting last weeks anti censorship provision is evil. Yahoo needs to take this opportunity to redefine who they are as a corporation, learn from their recent mistakes and emerge a better corporate citizen — one worthy of the respect of the communities that make up much of the Yahoo empire today.

Official PR release here.