January 17, 2012 11:58 pm

‘Visionary’ co-founder Yang leaves Yahoo

Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, severed his executive ties with the company and its Asian partners on Tuesday as the upheaval at the US internet company reached its boardroom.

His resignation as a director, which brings an end to one of the most prominent careers dating from the early days of the internet, will leave the way clear for Scott Thompson, the new chief executive, to stamp his own mark on the struggling internet media concern, according to analysts and people familiar with the company. Some also suggested that it would ease negotiations over the sale of Yahoo’s stakes in its Asian partners, which are seen as key to appeasing unhappy shareholders.

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However, one person close to Yahoo denied suggestions that Mr Yang had been forced out and insisted that the move had been entirely his decision.

In a statement, Roy Bostock, chairman, called Mr Yang a “visionary and a pioneer” who had “always remained focused on the best interests of Yahoo’s stakeholders, including shareholders, employees and more than 700m users”.

The company’s shares rose by 3 per cent in after hours trading as Wall Street digested the news.

Mr Yang’s resignation raised expectations that it would be the first step in a broader boardroom overhaul that might also see the departure of Mr Bostock, who has been chairman since before Microsoft’s failed bid for the company in 2008. A shake-out would help to head off a battle over boardroom control that has been threatened by dissident hedge fund investor Dan Loeb, according to one person familiar with the company.

Mr Yang, who in 1994 created the index of Web pages that became the foundation for Yahoo with fellow Stanford University graduate student David Filo, has long been seen by investors as having important influence over the company’s direction, despite ceding control to others save for a brief period as chief executive in 2007-2009.

His role in the failed negotiations over a Microsoft takeover, along with his involvement more recently in trying to arrange private equity investment in the company, left some unhappy investors questioning whether he was more concerned about his influence over Yahoo than rewarding shareholders.

“Yahoo suffered from the founder syndrome,” said Youssef Squali, an analyst at Jefferies. “Nothing was good enough for his company – that’s why he turned down $33 a share from Microsoft.”

Mr Yang, in statement issued by Yahoo, said that his 17 years at the company had “encompassed some of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life. However, the time has come for me to pursue other interests outside of Yahoo”. He owns a 3.6 per cent stake in the company, valued at almost $720m.

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