Investor demands details on Yahoo CEO

By Jeremy C. Owens San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The major Yahoo Inc. investor who exposed an incorrect degree in CEO Scott Thompson’s background demanded on Monday the company release more information on the appointment of Thompson and some board members.

Daniel Loeb, head of hedge fund Third Point, which holds 5.8 percent of Yahoo, said in an announcement Monday that his fund had demanded “to inspect books and records relating to the hiring of CEO Scott Thompson, the appointment of Patti Hart to the Yahoo board, and the selection” of a new contingent of board members.

On Thursday, Loeb sent the board a letter revealing that official biographies of company’s new CEO, Scott Thompson, incorrectly credited him with a college degree in computer science. Yahoo confirmed Thursday that Thompson does not have a degree in computer science, but called it “an inadvertent error.”

“If Mr. Thompson embellished his academic credentials, we think that it 1) undermines his credibility as a technology expert and 2) reflects poorly on the character of the CEO who has been tasked with leading Yahoo at this critical juncture,” Loeb wrote in the original letter.

Thompson’s official bios with PayPal owner eBay and Yahoo claimed he has undergraduate degrees in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College near Boston, but Thompson has only an accounting degree.

Yahoo responded last week with a statement that said Thompson’s degree is in business administration, with a major in accounting.

“There was an inadvertent error that stated Mr. Thompson also holds a degree in computer science. 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,” a Yahoo spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

Thompson took the reins at Yahoo in January, after a stint as president of eBay’s PayPal unit.

Loeb’s letter also expressed doubt about the credentials of Yahoo board member Hart, who led the search committee that chose Thompson as Yahoo’s new CEO, replacing Carol Bartz, who was fired in 2011. According to Loeb, Hart claims undergraduate degrees in marketing and economics from Illinois State University, but an investigation has shown that she received a single degree in business administration.

Yahoo stated that Hart has “a bachelor of science degree in business administration with specialties in marketing and economics.”

Third Point has assembled a slate of directors that it will present as nominees for Yahoo’s board at the annual shareholder meeting, which has not yet been scheduled. Yahoo has nominated new directors for spots vacated by co-founder Jerry Yang, Chairman Roy Bostock and others, a lineup that Loeb wants documentation to investigate.

Loeb’s letter to Yahoo on Monday cited news reports in which experts and analysts doubted Thompson’s ability to manage the company with the bio gaffe hanging over his head.

“Sadly for Yahoo and its investors, I think the board has no choice but to terminate the CEO unless it can clearly be shown that someone else made the error,” Kirk Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, told the San Jose Mercury News last week, the first source cited in Loeb’s Monday missive.