Yang Succeeds Semel at Yahoo Helm

Terry Semel has relinquished his leadership of Yahoo in the wake of continued criticism of the company’s handling of search, and reported ongoing weakness in key automotive and financial ad verticals.

He’ll be replaced by Jerry Yang, one of Yahoo’s original founders and a board member. Additionally, Susan Decker, EVP and Head of the Advertiser and Publisher Group, was named president, her second promotion in recent months.

Semel will remain with the company as non-executive chairman, advising senior management and working with the board.

Semel said in a statement, “The Board and I have long talked about the importance of ensuring a smooth succession in Yahoo!’s senior leadership — and more recently, about the need for a leadership team committed to carrying Yahoo through its multi-year transformation. As we discussed my future goals and plans, I was clear in telling the Board of my desire to take a step back sooner rather than later.”

Despite improvements in the company’s search marketing platform this year, investor disapproval of Yahoo’s direction has been palpable and growing. Many have pointed the finger at the company’s chief executive. They charge Semel has responded too slowly to changes in the marketplace for Web content and services. In addition to its lagging search share and long delays in introducing the Panama search marketing platform, under Semel the company has reportedly missed opportunities to acquire Google and Facebook, and has experienced softness in demand for automotive and financial advertising during the strongest-ever period for digital advertising.

All the same, Yahoo remains a favorite of display advertising media buyers who have tended to praise company’s efforts to preserve a safe environment for their brand messages.

The announcement comes immediately in the wake of a company shareholder meeting in which Semel and other senior execs were challenged on their compensation packages, and in which the company was criticized for its privacy and human rights track record in China.

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