Yang has been persona non grata with Yahoo! investors since he turned down a $47.5bn takeover offer from Microsoft back in 2008. In the four years since, the company’s value has plummeted, hitting a new low of $14bn, according to Bloomberg.
It’s not unheard of for tech company founders to turn down vast sums of cash for their ventures. There’s always the possibility of future growth bursts, and then there's the vexed question of not wanting to cede control. Mark Zuckerberg rebuffs suitors frequently. But Facebook’s star is in the ascent. Yahoo! has been in a steady and slow decline since its heyday in the pre-Google age of search. Over the past decade, the West Coast firm has seen 91% wiped off its market cap.
Why leave now?
Well, Yahoo! has a new CEO, Scott Thompson, whom it poached from Paypal. Thompson is no doubt itching to get the company back on track and start restoring shareholder value. Yang is part of the old guard, blocking any decisions that go against his ethos. An ethos that doesn’t necessarily withstand the slings and arrows of today’s market.
It looks like Yang has finally come to the same realisation. ‘The time has come for me to pursue other interests outside of Yahoo!,’ he said in a statement last night, adding: ‘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.’
His departure has already had a positive impact. Yahoo! shares rose 3.4% in after-hours trading last night. But it remains to be seen whether Thompson, freed from the shackles of Yahoo!’s co-founder, can actually turn the business around.
Yang will be keeping his fingers crossed. He hasn’t been getting much of a wage over the past few years: he’s on a dollar a year base salary. His wealth is tied into his 3.6% stake and the dividends that yields. One thing is for sure, Yang won't be remembered for his innovation, vision and leadership, but for the bum decision that cost him and his investors billions.
So long Jerry Yang, poster boy for 21st century hubris.