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Activist investor demands Yahoo fire CEO Scott Thompson

Yahoo has confirmed that Thompson's resume contains misleading information about his education.

May 05, 2012|By Michelle Maltais, Los Angeles Times
  • Scott Thompson, who was named CEO of Yahoo in January, speaks at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco in November 2010, when he was president of PayPal.
Scott Thompson, who was named CEO of Yahoo in January, speaks at the Web 2.0… (Paul Sakuma, Associated…)

An activist investor is demanding thatYahoo Inc.fire its new chief executive, Scott Thompson, after the Internet company confirmed that his resume contained misleading information about his education.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company confirmed Thursday that Thompson's credentials, questioned recently by a shareholder, incorrectly stated in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that he holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from Stonehill College. The company called it an "inadvertent error."

The biographical discrepancy was initially pointed out by New York hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb of Third Point, which holds a 5.8% stake in Yahoo. On Friday, Third Point sent a letter to the Yahoo board of directors, calling the response "insulting to shareholders" and "the height of arrogance," demanding punitive action by Monday.

"Mr. Thompson and the Board should make no mistake: This is a big deal," the letter said.

In the past, other companies have suspended or fired executives who lied on their resumes.

The Yahoo board did say in its statement that it would "review" the situation and make an "appropriate disclosure to shareholders."

The company remained supportive of Thompson in its statement.

"This in no way alters that fact that Mr. Thompson is a highly qualified executive with a successful track record leading large consumer technology companies," Yahoo said. "Under Mr. Thompson's leadership, Yahoo is moving forward to grow the company and drive shareholder value."

Thompson actually has only an accounting degree from Stonehill College. That degree is also listed in the SEC filing. He graduated in 1979, according to the Easton, Mass., college's website.

Different instances of Thompson's obfuscation have been popping up online. Kara Swisher, a blogger for AllThingsD, said Thompson called himself an "engineer" in a 2009 interview with TechNation radio. The program page describes Thompson as having received a degree in accounting and computer science.

In the audio snippet, cued up on the AllThingsD story, Thompson says that the best part of his "background is, if you work in technology, you're trained to solve problems." He goes on to say that his training has equipped him to examine and dissect "very complex things."

"And that's really the background that I have and it started back in my college days, and I think that's really the wonderful part thing of being an engineer is you think that way." Thompson goes on to say, "And we love hiring very bright engineers because we're asking them to do what they do best."

Although he doesn't outright call himself an engineer, as Thompson goes on to talk about the engineers Yahoo hires, he does not correct the interviewer when she said he held a degree in both accounting and computer science.

michelle.maltais@latimes.com

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

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