Yahoo's revolving door: Yang in as CEO; Semel out

The inevitable happened: Yahoo CEO Terry Semel has stepped down as CEO.Jerry Yang, Yahoo co-founder, will become CEO.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

The inevitable happe

ned: Yahoo CEO Terry Semel has stepped down as CEO.

Jerry Yang, Yahoo co-founder, will become CEO. "I am ready to dig in to address the challenges that face Yahoo," said Yang on a conference call with analysts. Yang's blog also summed up his prepared remarks. While Semel's move wasn't surprising, the naming of Yang was a bit unexpected. Semel, who was credited with bringing Yahoo back from the dot-com bust, has had a tough year amid sluggish financial results and the delay of its Panama ad system. Semel was recently under fire at Yahoo's shareholder meeting.

Susan Decker, who was viewed by many as Semel's replacement, becomes president of the company. Decker said she won't fill her former position as head of the advertising and publisher group. Semel becomes a non-executive chairman and since he resigned doesn't get a separation package. Decker also said Yahoo is reorganizing around publishers and advertisers.

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With the move, Yang gets to step up as the company's leader in an executive role. Yang co-founded Yahoo, but the company has opted for more seasoned executives to be CEO. First, Tim Koogle then Semel. With the move, Yang will have to step up to motivate talent and boost morale as Yahoo battles Google.

Yang's work is cut out. Yang briefly noted that Yahoo is seeing a slowdown in display advertising in addition to facing search monetization challenges. On the other hand, Yang said Panama was delivering better than expected results.

"I won't be satisfied until the external perception of Yahoo matches reality," said Yang. "Yahoo has the assets to win."

As Yang works to retool Yahoo's culture and motivate, Decker will handle the operations. And Decker had news to deliver on the operations front. While revenue per search has improved upside has been hurt by affiliate marketing, said Decker. Overall, Yahoo expects its second quarter results to be roughly in line with estimates with some risk to the downside.

On the conference call with analysts, Semel, Decker and Yang all sounded emotional. Decker credited Semel for bringing her to Yahoo. Semel noted that Yang was the reason he became CEO of Yahoo.

As for Semel, he made it clear that he was thinking about stepping down. Semel noted that the multi-year transformation was underway and he had a desire "to step back sooner than later."

"I saw myself as more of a coach than a player. Frankly, as we (Semel and the board) talked about it we felt blessed to have Sue and Jerry. Both were my two closest partners. We started to feel excited about the concept of the two of them working together as a team. "

"It is time for new executive leadership," said Semel. "The past year has been a difficult one for Yahoo. No one has been satisfied with recent financial performance. "

Going forward, Decker will be in charge of Yahoo's business and international operations. Corporate functions and technology will report to Yang.

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Wall Street Journal.

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