Yang's travails: A Yahoo timeline

It was a rough 17 months for Jerry Yang as Yahoo's chief executive. Here's a chronology of the Internet pioneer's tenure at the top.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
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Stephen Shankland
5 min read

After nearly a year and a half at Yahoo's helm, Chief Executive Jerry Yang will step down once the company finds a replacement. Monday's announcement starts closing a chapter in the Internet pioneer's history that began in June 2007 when Yang replaced Terry Semel as CEO.

It's been a rough time. Yahoo's stock has dropped from $28.12 when Yang took over as CEO to Monday's close at $10.63.

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Yang's follies
What was Jerry Yang's biggest mistake as Yahoo's chief exec?

He didn't get the deal with Microsoft done
He tried to partner with archrival Google
He was slow to cut costs
He was slow to get Yahoo's ad program in fighting shape
None. He didn't make any major mistakes

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But though Yang didn't build Yahoo into a Google-slayer, he hasn't been idle, either. The company looks very different from when he took over, with the new Amp platform launched and the Yahoo Open Strategy under way to fire up activity on Yahoo properties. Here's a recounting of Yahoo's recent history.

• June 12, 2007: Shareholders blast Semel and Yahoo's board at the company's 2007 shareholder meeting. Semel is defensive: "This is clearly a year of transition for our company. We believe we are well positioned now to take advantage of strong growth up ahead."

• June 18, 2007: Semel steps down. Yang, previously bearing the title of chief Yahoo, takes over as CEO.

• Jan. 7, 2008: Yang demonstrates Yahoo's vision for a revamped, more socially active Yahoo Mail, a key part of the company's effort to back off its media strategy and move toward a site that's more useful for Yahoo members and used by them more often.

• Jan. 29, 2008: Yahoo announces a layoff of about 1,000 employees while reporting fourth-quarter earnings. "We're making good progress executing on this strategy, and I'm confident we're heading in the right direction," Yang says. "This sort of transformation takes time, but we have the talent and the strong cash flow to succeed."

• Feb. 1, 2008: Microsoft publicly announces its $44.6 billion cash-and-stock offer to acquire Yahoo. "Microsoft's consistent belief has been that the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! clearly represents the best way to deliver maximum value to our respective shareholders, as well as create a more efficient and competitive company that would provide greater value and service to our customers," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says in a letter to Yang and Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock. Yahoo's stock surges from a close of $19.18 the day before the offer was made public to close at $28.38.

• Feb. 11, 2008: Yahoo rejects Microsoft's offer, saying "Microsoft's proposal substantially undervalues Yahoo." The company would repeat this rationale several times in coming negotiations.

• Feb. 12, 2008. Yahoo's layoffs begin.

• April 5, 2008: Microsoft sets an ultimatum for a Yahoo response, threatening to take the matter directly to Yahoo shareholders.

• May 3, 2008: Discussions break down. Microsoft says it's really not interested in Yahoo. "By failing to reach an agreement with us, you and your stockholders have left significant value on the table," Ballmer says in a letter to Yang. "But clearly a deal is not to be."

• May 4, 2008: Microsoft and Yahoo had come close in their price discussions. Microsoft had offered $33 per share, while Yahoo had been willing to go as low as $37. Yang tries to rally the troops as news of the breakdown goes public by telling Yahoo employees that "there's a reason why we're the only Fortune 500 company with an exclamation point at the end of our name, and now is the time to demonstrate what that exclamation point stands for."

• May 18, 2008: Microsoft talks with Yahoo restart--for a narrower slice of the company.

• June 12, 2008: Yahoo and Google announce a search-ad partnership under which Google will supply some advertisements for Yahoo search results. The two will share the revenue, and Yahoo expects $800 million in revenue and $250 million to $450 million in new operating cash flow during the first year of the deal. Meanwhile, Yahoo said talks to sell its search business to Microsoft broke down.

• June 26: After numerous executive departures, Yahoo announces a reorganization that centralizes some power.

• July 12, 2008: Yahoo rejects a proposal to sell its search assets to Microsoft.

• July 14, 2008: Carl Icahn, who owns about 5 percent of Yahoo stock and who had strongly urged a Microsoft deal, begins an effort to oust Yahoo's board of directors and replace them with his own slate.

• July 21, 2008: Yahoo settles with Icahn, agreeing to give him and two allies a seat on the board.

• July 29, 2008: Investor T. Boone Pickens dumps 10 million Yahoo shares.

• Aug. 1, 2008: Yahoo shareholders gripe about the company's performance at the company's annual meeting. "We might not see $33 again for two years," says Patrick Sheridan, who came from New York for the meeting. "I might have to cut my losses. I voted against the entire board."

• Aug. 5, 2008: After uncovering a vote-counting slip-up, Yahoo finds support for Yang and Chairman Roy Bostock much lower than initially expected. A total of 33.7 percent of shares withheld votes for Yang, 39.6 percent withheld votes for Bostock.

• Aug. 6, 2008: Carl Icahn joins Yahoo's board.

• Oct. 21, 2008: Yahoo reports a 64 percent decline in net income, lowers its financial performance forecast, warns of a softer ad market, and says the layoff will result in at least 1,430 losing their jobs. Despite the bad news, Yang maintains an optimistic tone that focuses on an indefinite future when the economy looks better. "While the advertising market goes through a down cycle, we believe the Internet ad market will recover, with Yahoo positioned to take share," Yang said.

• Nov. 5, 2008: The Justice Department's threat of an antitrust lawsuit kills the Yahoo-Google ad deal. Yahoo expresses its dismay, but Google--growing ever more dominant and facing more scrutiny as a result--doesn't think a big legal fight is worth it. The companies had proposed a narrower deal to the Justice Department, but to no avail, so Yahoo must bid adieu to $800 million in new revenue.

• Nov. 17, 2008: Yahoo announces Jerry Yang will step down as CEO once a successor is found. "All of you know that I have always, and will always bleed purple. I will always do what I think is right for this great company. While this step will be an adjustment for all of us, I know it's the right one," Yang says in a memo to Yahoo employees.

See also:
Yahoo CEO Yang to step down
Yahoo's ultimate search: A new CEO
A pity for Yahoo that John McCain didn't win
Jerry Yang memo to staff about stepping down
Microhoo revisited: Would it be a search-only deal?