Yahoo to Replace Jerry Yang

Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang will soon step down after a punishing 18 months at the company’s helm, the company confirmed tonight.

Chairman Roy Bostock, who is vetting replacement candidates, said in a statement, “Jerry and the Board have had an ongoing dialogue about succession timing, and we all agree that now is the right time to make the transition to a new CEO who can take the company to the next level.”

Yang will stay on as Chief Yahoo after that replacement is found, the company said. He’ll also remain on the board.

In a memo to staff obtained by Kara Swisher, he wrote “Yahoo is now a significantly different company that is stronger in many ways than it was just 18 months ago.”

“I strongly believe that having transformed our platform and better aligned costs and revenues, we have a unique window for the right CEO to take ownership over the next wave of mission-critical decisions facing the company,” he added.

Jerry Yang inherited a Yahoo beset with many problems, including deflating display ad prices and an under-nurtured search platform. During his term, he was forced to contend with those and other major challenges — seemingly one after the next.

The most pronounced obstacle was Microsoft’s unwelcome acquisition bid almost a year ago. During negotiations Yang and his board aggressively fended off the courtship, leading Microsoft to suddenly walk away from talks after many weeks.

Microsoft’s maneuver has had many ramifications for Yahoo that still persist today. One was Yahoo’s rush to embrace a search advertising partnership with Google, which was seen by some analysts as a necessary move to appease angry shareholders. That deal fell apart just two weeks ago, as Google balked at the companies’ seeming inability to reach agreeable terms with the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ objected to the agreement on the grounds that it was anti-competitive.

As the challenges mounted, a large number of Yahoos quit or were dismissed in widespread layoffs designed to cut costs and reduce bloat. Back in February Yahoo reduced its headcount by about 1,000, and more recently has committed to a reduction in force of about 1,400 more, according to ClickZ’s estimate.

Throughout the chaos, Yang rolled out new initiatives — including an open platform strategy and its new ad management system, Apt, which debuted earlier this fall.

The system is designed to help media sellers deliver specific audiences to buyers, and to help those buyers offer up their audiences and inventory in an exchange-like fashion. It will eventually serve advertisers, ad agencies, ad networks, publishers, and Yahoo’s own inventory.

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