Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang resigns

Kai Ryssdal Jan 17, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Jerry Yang’s actual title at Yahoo — besides former CEO, member of the board of directors and co-founder — was Chief Yahoo. Whatever that job description actually meant, there’s an opening for it today.

Not long after the closing bell, Yahoo! announced Yang has left the company entirely.

Kara Swisher covers Yahoo! for AllThingsD. Good to talk to you.

Kara Swisher: Hi, how are you doing?

Ryssdal: Not unexpected, right? This move by Jerry Yang?

Swisher: Well, I wrote about it last week saying it was one of the possibilities. I mean, it’s certainly dramatic because he’s the key founder of that company. And so I said it might happen because of all the pressure that was building upon his board, and he was sort of at the center of it and the one I think most associated with a lot of the troubles at Yahoo! — him and the chairman, Roy Bostock, who didn’t resign, which was interesting.

Ryssdal: Let’s go back over those troubles. The big one that sticks in my memory is turning down that offer from Microsoft, the $47-something billion.

Swisher: Yeah, that was a big one. I think it was $41 billion. That was one of those mistakes you can’t take back. And actually in a recent discussion with him, I suggested that possibly he should leave, and he said, ‘Do you have any better ideas?’ And I said, well you can build a time machine and go back and sell yourself to Microsoft. He thought that was easier. But apparently this was.

Ryssdal: Did he laugh at all when you said that?

Swisher: Oh yeah, it was a funny conversation. But it was definitely a gray area, he would defend himself on that, on that it wasn’t a true offer and that it wasn’t at the right time. But I think history has shown that it was a mistake not to sell.

Ryssdal: What is it that’s broken with Yahoo!? I mean, what has to be fixed?

Swisher: Well, so many things. It’s too big; too many people. It hasn’t changed with the time. It’s a paradigm company of another era in computing. It doesn’t have a strong mobile strategy. It is still wedded to the desktop. It is still in the old paradigm of portals versus social. It goes on and on. It missed a lot of these opportunities to change themselves. And after a while, in technology, if you don’t change, you die.

Ryssdal: The press releases today said all the things you usually expect, ‘much congratulations for Jerry,’ all this stuff. Was he forced out?

Swisher: It looks like he walked out on his motor, but it was mounting pressure in that regard, and I don’t think he wanted to be caught up in another cycle of trouble — and be the focus of it.

Ryssdal: Yeah. The new CEO, Scott Thompson, he’s been there mere weeks, right?

Swisher: Yeah, he just got there. We did write about that, we did find out about that and wrote about it. But he may be part of this, he may have said, you know, ‘I need a clean slate and I need to move on without Jerry hanging over me.’ That could have been a possibility. But I think nobody would have forced Jerry Yang out except Jerry Yang, and I think probably he realized the writing was on the wall, and the time had come and all the cliches.

Ryssdal: Yeah. Very quickly: The share price jumped like 4 percent as soon as news of this hit. The markets have been waiting for this, huh?

Swisher: Yeah, I think so. I think, you know, there’s been trouble with its Asian partners who they’re negotiating with now; he may have been a problem there. But you know, aside from all that, the man is a legacy. He’s one of the great Internet pioneers and entrepreneurs, and so you don’t want to forget that in all these recent-year stumbles. And so it’s hard to balance out that short-term interest of which this is a good thing versus the long-term impact of what he’s made on the Internet, which is significant.

Ryssdal: Right. Kara Swisher at AllThingsD. Kara, thanks a lot.

Swisher: Thanks a lot. Bye bye.

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