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Yahoo Co-Founder Jerry Yang Resigns From Board

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Embattled Yang resigns from the Yahoo corporate board of directors and also withdraws from the boards of Yahoo Japan and Alibaba Group Holding

Internet search pioneer Jerry Yang, who with Stanford University classmate David Filo co-founded Yahoo in 1995, has resigned from the board of directors of his own company. He said he will also withdraw from the boards of Yahoo Japan and Alibaba Group Holding.

For about seven years, Yahoo ranked as the world’s number one Internet search engine. However, Google passed it in general usage in about 2002. Facebook, Twitter and other social media services also have taken page views from Yahoo, which is now battling with Microsoft’s Bing to be the second most popular search provider, though Yahoo Mail is still the world’s leading Webmail application.

Out Googled

Yang (pictured) had been a board member since the company’s founding in 1995 but has not had day-to-day operational responsibility for the company since he resigned as CEO in January 2009, following a shareholder dispute about the direction of the company.

Yang was a focal point of controversy in 2008 after he persuaded the board to turn down an offer from Microsoft to acquire the company for $44.6 billion (£29bn), or about $31 (£20) a share. Yang feared that a Microsoft takeover would irrevocably damage Yahoo’s business model and image.

Yahoo’s common stock in July 2008 was selling for about $23 (£15) per share and had been as high as $33.63 (£21.89) in October 2007. The stock closed at $15.48 (£10.07) on 17 January.

Shares of Yahoo gained 3.4 percent in after-hours trading on the news of Yang’s departure. Analysts told Reuters that Yang’s exit might speed up discussions surrounding a multibillion-dollar deal to sell much of Yahoo’s prize assets  –  its 40 percent slice of China’s Alibaba, as well as its investment in Yahoo Japan.

Four CEOs Since 2007

The company has had three CEOs since 2007 following the resignation of former Warner Brothers chairman and co-CEO Terry Semel, who was appointed in 2004. Yang replaced him but quit the post in 2009 and, Autodesk CEO Carol Bartz took over but was fired in September 2011. She was replaced by former PayPal president Scott Thompson,  hired on 4 January, 2012.

All four of the chief executives failed to restore Yahoo’s sagging brand and business results after Google soared past the company in search and passed it for the first time in display advertising early in 2011.

In a letter to the Yahoo board of directors’ president Roy Bostock, Yang wrote, “My time at Yahoo, from its founding to the present, has 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. As I leave the company I co-founded nearly 17 years ago, I am enthusiastic about the appointment of Scott Thompson as Chief Executive Officer and his ability, along with the entire Yahoo leadership team, to guide Yahoo into an exciting and successful future.”

eWEEK senior writer Clint Boulton contributed to this story.