Ousted Yahoo CEO has cancer, WSJ reports

Scott Thompson, who resigned as Yahoo CEO earlier today, reportedly told the board he's been diagnosed with thyroid cancer -- though not until his explanation for his inflated resume had apparently started to unravel.

Yodel Anecdotal/Yahoo! Inc.

Just in case you haven't had enough Yahoo drama, there's now a new soap-operaish element to the Internet giant's recent convulsions. Scott Thompson, who was replaced as Yahoo CEO earlier today , reportedly told the board late last week that he's been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

It's not entirely clear what role Thompson's alleged medical disclosure played in his departure from the Yahoo C-suite. The WSJ report noted only that "[t]he decision to step down was in part influenced by Mr. Thompson's cancer diagnosis," a curiously roundabout -- and presumably face-saving -- way of describing a sequence of events that from the outside more closely resembled a palace coup.

Thompson, after all, had been under fire since early May over the fact that his official resume had for years listed a computer-science degree he'd never earned. That academic credential inflation was first discovered, then widely trumpeted, by activist shareholder Daniel Loeb, a longtime critic of Yahoo management whose hedge fund, Third Point LLC, was gearing up for a proxy battle with the company.

Thompson reportedly claimed last week that the resume issue resulted from an error by a junior employer at a headhunting firm . Then last Friday, a reported letter from the CEO of recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles, which had recruited Thompson to his previous job at eBay-owned PayPal, called Thompson's explanation "verifiably untrue."

It's worth remembering that much of this narrative remains a hall of mirrors, as almost none of this information has been confirmed publicly. Still, it seems likely that Thompson's credibility on the matter of his resume was beginning to wear thin by late last week, especially since he'd apparently taken a week to directly address the false credential in the first place.

Coincidentally enough, that's apparently also when Thompson revealed his reported medical issue to the board.

Yahoo's announcement of Thompson's replacement by interim CEO Ross Levinsohn made no mention of any medical issues. The WSJ article noted only that Thompson "didn't want to publicly discuss the cancer diagnosis because he wanted to keep personal details private," according to one unnamed individual.

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About the author

David Hamilton is the assistant managing editor of CNET News. He has been writing and editing business and tech coverage for about two decades -- the majority of that at the Wall Street Journal in both Tokyo and San Francisco. He is a two-time winner of the Overseas Press Club award and has written for numerous magazines and blogs, including Slate, Science, VentureBeat, CBS Interactive's BNET, California Lawyer and the New Republic.

 

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