Yahoo complicates its CEO transition

Interim Yahoo CEO Ross Levinsohn has his work cut out.

Interim Yahoo CEO Ross Levinsohn has his work cut out. For one, he's under great pressure to return the company to its glory days of the early 2000s, before it rejected a reported $44 billion takeover bid from Microsoft in 2008.

Yet Levinsohn also has to rebuild trust with a number of important Yahoo stakeholder groups – employees, consumers, and business partners among them – who must feel like they were only getting to know former CEO Scott Thompson after a few months on the job. Thompson, of course, resigned after he was caught padding his résumé by claiming a computer science degree from Stonehill College that he never received.

PR Play rating:

1. Clueless
2. Ill-advised
3. On the right track
4. Savvy
5. Ingenious

Yahoo, which did not return requests for comment, never made the real reason for Thompson's exit clear, nor has it fully explained how it allowed its CEO's erroneous résumé, which also appeared on eBay and Yahoo's SEC filings, to go unchecked. After activist shareholder Daniel Loeb of hedge fund Third Point pushed the one-time Internet powerhouse to remove Thompson, the company first blamed “inadvertent error.” Later, it slightly changed its tune when Thompson sent a memo to employees apologizing for the situation. Neither made the story go away, nor did they adequately explain how the company took such a laissez-faire attitude towards its most important financial filings.

Levinsohn has so far drawn praise from many industry observers for his background in the tech and media worlds. He also quickly sent a memo to colleagues reminding them the customer will be at the forefront of Yahoo's business going forward – a smart opening keynote message to be sure. However, Levinsohn must also display communications savvy as he positions himself to become the company's permanent CEO. He must assure business partners that a personal mistake won't make them endure another leadership change. Levinsohn must also make his own vision for the company, which has sites read by millions in various categories, clear to employees and other stakeholder groups.

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