SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A disgruntled Yahoo shareholder questioned the qualifications and integrity of recently hired CEO Scott Thompson after exposing a misrepresentation about the executive's education.
The fabrication confirmed Thursday by Yahoo Inc. gives New York hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb more artillery as he tries to topple a board of directors favored by Thompson, who became CEO of the troubled Internet company four months ago.
Loeb, whose fund Third Point owns a 5.8 percent stake in Yahoo, gained more leverage when he discovered Thompson doesn't have a bachelor's degree in computer science from a small college in Easton, Mass., as Yahoo stated in a regulatory filing last week.
Thompson only has an accounting degree from Stonehill College, an accomplishment that Yahoo also listed in the filing. The accounting degree was the only one listed in Thompson's resume last year by eBay Inc. when he was still running that company's PayPal payment service. He graduated in 1979, according to Stonehill's website.
Yahoo confirmed Thompson's credentials had been exaggerated in the recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company, which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., brushed off the distortion as an "inadvertent error."
But Loeb pounced on the misinformation as a violation of Yahoo's code of ethics and called for an independent investigation to determine whether Thompson had misled the company's board about his technology credentials. He also cited the mix-up as an example of Yahoo's poor corporate governance.
"If Mr. Thompson embellished his academic credentials we think that it 1) undermines his credibility as a technology expert and 2) reflects poorly on the character of the CEO who has been tasked with leading Yahoo at this critical juncture," Loeb wrote in a letter to Yahoo's board on Thursday. "Now more than ever Yahoo investors need a trustworthy CEO."
In the past, other companies have suspended or fired executives who were caught lying on their resumes.
Yahoo hired Thompson to reverse years of financial lethargy that set in at the company even as more advertising shifted to the Internet. The funk has weighed on Yahoo's stock, which has been hovering between $10 and $20 for most of the last three years. Yahoo shares fell 27 cents to close at $15.40 on Thursday. That's well below the $33 per share that stockholders could have gotten in May 2008 if the board had accepted a takeover offer from Microsoft Corp.