Ross Levinsohn has resigned as Yahoo’s head of global media, just two weeks after former Google executive Marissa Mayer was appointed the struggling web portal’s new chief executive.
As the interim chief executive, Mr Levinsohn was the leading internal candidate for the permanent role of leading Yahoo. His departure is not therefore unexpected but may come as an early blow to Ms Mayer, who lacks Mr Levinsohn’s experience and connections in advertising sales.
One person close to Mr Levinsohn said that he does not have a new job lined up.
A former president of News Corp’s Fox Interactive Media unit and co-founder of Fuse Capital, an investment firm, Mr Levinsohn’s most recent role at Yahoo involved leading strategy, engineering and content creation. He previously led advertising sales and content partnerships in the US as executive vice president of Yahoo Americas.
During his tenure he won praise for recruiting Michael Barrett, a former News Corp colleague, as Yahoo’s head of revenue and for brokering partnerships with Clear Channel, Spotify and, most importantly, Facebook.
He took temporary leadership of Yahoo in May after the sudden departure of Scott Thompson, who recently re-emerged as chief executive of ShopRunner, an online retail services business.
In an email announcing his departure, seen by the Financial Times, Mr Levinsohn said his time at Yahoo had been “an incredible journey for me”.
“Yahoo is an amazing brand and company, and I leave knowing we did all we could to help inform and entertain more than 700m users each month,” he wrote. “Leading this company has been one of the best experiences of my career, but it is time for me to look for the next challenge.”
Mr Levinsohn had let it be known both inside and outside Yahoo that he was likely to leave if he was not successful in running for chief executive, with the accompanying risk that he might take several key advertising salespeople with him.
Third Point Capital’s Dan Loeb, the activist shareholder who joined Yahoo’s board earlier this year and took a key role in the search for a chief executive, did not tell Mr Levinsohn that Ms Mayer had been appointed until hours before the announcement of her hiring.
A Yahoo spokesperson said: “Ross has done a terrific job during his time at Yahoo. We wish him all the best.”
Additional reporting by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson and Richard Waters