Kara Swisher

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Yahoo’s Longtime Top Lawyer Mike Callahan Departs (Internal Memo!)

Mike Callahan, Yahoo’s longtime and powerful general counsel, is leaving the company.

According to an internal memo, which is embedded below, Callahan does not have another job. But sources said that he has been considering departing the Silicon Valley Internet giant since the beginning of the year.

Ron Bell, who is now deputy GC for products and the Americas region, has been named interim GC reporting to interim CEO Ross Levinsohn.

It’s all very interim (except me — I started covering Yahoo in the mid-1990s and I never go away!).

Callahan has been around a long time too, serving as the top lawyer at the company for almost a decade, after arriving at Yahoo in 1999. In his job, he has been in charge of legal affairs and public policy globally.

In addition, he has played a very powerful role on a range of strategic, corporate governance and transactional issues at Yahoo.

That has included everything from Yahoo’s nasty hostile takeover battle with Microsoft to its eventual search and advertising partnership with the software giant. He has also been a key adviser to Yahoo’s musical chair series of CEOs over the last few years.

Callahan has also been deeply involved in Yahoo’s current patent settlement negotiations with Facebook — which, by the way, he was integral to waging under former CEO Scott Thompson.

Those talks are ongoing, although complex, with a likely cross-licensing agreement at some point in July.

Sources said that Callahan’s departure has nothing to do with the current investigation into the circumstances around the fake computer science degree on Thompson’s bio that caused a firestorm at Yahoo.

Several directors are looking into the controversy, most especially how the false information got into Yahoo’s legal filings.

That aside, the quiet and self-effacing Callahan has certainly been one of the steadier members of the management team over the years and his departure from Yahoo is a major one.

Here’s the memo that Levinsohn just sent around to the troops:

From: “Yahoo! Inc.”
Reply-To: “Yahoo! Inc.”
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2012 14:00:14 -0700
To: All Worldwide
Subject: Executive Changes


I’m writing to let you know about a change in our executive ranks and to wish a long time Yahoo goodbye. After twelve and a half years with Yahoo!, and almost nine years as our General Counsel, Mike Callahan has notified me of his decision to leave Yahoo! so that he can move on to new opportunities. We would like to thank him sincerely for his time at the Company.

During his time as General Counsel, Mike helped structure, recruit and retain a world class global team of legal, public policy, intellectual property, compliance and other professionals. Mike and his team have set the industry standard for substantive excellence, business partnership, creativity and, importantly, have had fun doing it. The long tenure of many of the legal and policy team is a credit to the organization that Mike has built. He has focused on team building, communication, and trust between department members and they have been a great contributor to the company at large.

In my time with Yahoo!, Mike has been a leader and great partner to me and the entire executive team and we will miss his calm demeanor and practical, results oriented advice. Along with the Board, I would like to thank Mike for his loyalty and service, and wish him well in whatever comes next for him.

With Mike’s departure, I am pleased that another long time legal Yahoo, Ron Bell, currently Deputy General Counsel for Products and the Americas Region, has agreed to serve as interim General Counsel reporting to me. Ron joined Yahoo! in July 1999, and over that time has served in numerous senior roles in the legal department, including as a Deputy General Counsel for the last 9 years — and has made his mark on many of our most strategic deals and initiatives over the years. Please join me in thanking Ron for stepping up into this new role and welcoming him to the executive team.



Interim CEO
& Head of Global Media

And here is the regulatory filing on Callahan’s departure to make it officially official:


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus