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Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang steps down

Ending an era for one of the Internet’s pioneers, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang has stepped down from the struggling company’s board.

He also relinquished posts on the boards of Yahoo Japan Corp. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., according to a statement from the Sunnyvale, Calif., company.

His surprise departure came two weeks after Yahoo hired a new chief executive, Scott Thompson, the former president of EBay Inc.'s PayPal unit.

Thompson is charged with helping Yahoo catch up to Google and Facebook, which have outpaced Yahoo in the fight for Web traffic and ad dollars. He replaced Carol Bartz, who was ousted four months earlier.

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Shareholders have been sharply critical of Yang since 2008, when he was blamed for thwarting Microsoft’s unsolicited takeover bid while he was serving as the chief executive.

Yahoo’s stock soared 4% on the news in after-hours trading Tuesday.

“What the market is telling you is that Jerry stepping down removes an obstacle to unlocking some of Yahoo’s value,” said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis.

Yang, 43, is leaving Yahoo as it undergoes a strategic review in which the board is deciding whether to unload its holdings in Yahoo Japan and Alibaba Group or sell a minority stake to private equity investors.

Yang, who as of November had a 3.8% stake in Yahoo, was seen as fighting for the company to remain independent. That earned him the anger of some investors who blamed him for rebuffing Microsoft’s bid, which was worth about $44 billion. Yahoo’s current market value is about $20 billion.

Yang and David Filo created Yahoo while graduate students at Stanford University. They co-founded the company in 1995.

But it was Yang’s leadership while chief executive from mid-2007 to early 2009 that defined his legacy at Yahoo. Yang was seen as personally rebuffing Microsoft, igniting a firestorm of criticism.

“That’s something that I know I will be labeled with forever,” Yang said in a 2008 onstage interview at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

jessica.guynn@latimes.com


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