Exclusive: Yahoo Board Hires Spencer Stuart for CEO Search

Published on June 4, 2012
by Kara Swisher

Yahoo’s board has hired Spencer Stuart in yet another CEO search, although sources close to the company said that interim leader Ross Levinsohn is the prime candidate for the position at this point.

“It’s Ross’s to lose,” said one person close to the situation.

Levinsohn was appointed to the job on a temporary basis after the Silicon Valley Internet giant’s last CEO, Scott Thompson, was ousted after a resume-padding controversy.

At the time, the board indicated that there would be a search, although Yahoo Chairman Fred Amoroso said in an employee meeting that he was hoping Levinsohn would get the job.

Still, the move by the company’s directors could add more uncertainty to the already volatile mood at the Silicon Valley Internet giant, which has been rocked by a series of major changes in recent months.

Along with the Thompson fracas and a massive layoff, the board has had a massive turnover — including adding activist shareholder Daniel Loeb of Third Point and two of his colleagues, Michael Wolf and Harry Wilson.

Interestingly, all of the 11 directors are considered independent, according to a proxy filing Yahoo made earlier today.

And — in my humble opinion — they are also all pretty aggressive in their interest in helping run Yahoo beyond the typical board’s job of overall corporate governance.

Case in point: Several board members, along with Levinsohn, have been involved in serious negotiations to settle its patent infringement litigation with social networking giant Facebook.

Oh, it’s a very mouthy group — which is likely to give pause to any experienced exec who Spencer Stuart might query about the very difficult job of turning around Yahoo. (I truly feel for anyone who runs Yahoo, what with listening to all that expected backseat driving and kibitzing.)

The selection of Spencer Stuart is interesting, given that Heidrick & Struggles had done Yahoo’s previous search. But that talent search firm had gotten into it with Thompson, who accused Heidrick of adding a fake computer science degree to his bio. Heidrick vehemently denied the allegation.

The board members of the nominating committee in charge of the search are David Kenny, John Hayes, Thomas McInerney and Wolf. Kenny, who was once considered a Yahoo CEO contender (he now is CEO of the Weather Channel), is chair of the group.

Until we get some clarity, here is Yahoo’s proxy filed today, with all kinds of interesting info to chew on:


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