Yahoo's interim CEO faces off with shareholders

Associated Press Modified: July 12, 2012 at 4:15 pm •  Published: July 12, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo's restless shareholders let interim CEO Ross Levinsohn know that they won't give him much time to fix the troubled company if he gets the job on a permanent basis.

Levinsohn faced skeptical questioning at Yahoo's annual shareholders meeting Thursday as he tried to convince investors that the embattled Internet company will rebound from years of financial malaise and internal turmoil.

The foibles have depressed Yahoo's stock as the company struggled to find a leader who could come up with a strategy to reverse a decline exacerbated by the success of Internet search leader Google Inc. and social networking leader Facebook Inc.

Levinsohn, who once ran Internet services at News Corp., will be Yahoo's fifth CEO in five years, if the company removes the interim tag from his title, as widely expected. That doesn't include Yahoo's chief financial officer, Tim Morse, who temporarily led the company between the firing of Carol Bartz as CEO last September and the hiring of her replacement, Scott Thompson, in January.

Yahoo dumped Thompson two months ago amid a flap over misinformation on his official biography, providing Levinsohn with an opportunity to prove that he is the right person for the job.

Levinsohn, 48, has made a positive impression so far by closing a long-delayed deal to sell part of its stake in Alibaba Group, one of China's most successful Internet companies. He also negotiated a truce with Facebook, averting a legal fight over patent rights that threatened to poison Yahoo's partnerships with the social network.

But other Yahoo CEOs have gotten off to promising starts that disintegrated into disillusioning letdowns.

The broken turnaround promises of Yahoo Inc.'s past CEOs shaped the testy tenor of Thursday's meeting. The memories of Yahoo's squandered opportunity to sell itself to Microsoft Corp. for $47.5 billion, or $33 per share, in May 2008 didn't help the mood either. Yahoo shares fell 11 cents to close Thursday at $15.69.

In a particularly prickly presentation, one longtime shareholder railed against Yahoo for its lack of innovation and compelling content. The Associated Press couldn't verify the identities of the seven shareholders who spoke during a 35-minute question-and-answer session because Yahoo banned reporters from attending the meeting at a Santa Clara hotel. The AP listened to the meeting on a webcast provided by Yahoo.

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