05.13.12

Farewell, Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, Ousted for a Résumé Lie

Scott Thompson lasted just four months in the job. Dan Lyons offers a send-off for the man brought down for lying on his résumé—and a dire forecast for Yahoo’s new CEO, the ailing company’s sixth in five years.

See you later, Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson. You lied on your résumé, claiming you had a degree in computer science when you didn’t, and then you got busted for it, and now Yahoo’s board has given you the boot.

After this fiasco it’s likely you’ll never work again. If you do, you won’t be running a company like Yahoo. Maybe you’ll find your way into some rinky-dink tech shop nobody has heard of. Even then, for the rest of your life, you’ll be remembered as the guy who got kicked out of Yahoo for lying on your résumé. Your colleagues will laugh at you behind your back.

The ultimate irony is that the lie you told was so needless. Yahoo didn’t hire you because it thought you had a computer-science degree from Stonehill College. Good grief!

By the time you got recruited into Yahoo you’d been CEO of PayPal, and before that held top jobs at Inovant, a subsidiary of Visa, and at Barclay’s Global Investors. Even if you had studied computer science at Stonehill College in the 1970s, whatever you learned there would have been obsolete by about, um, the moment you left school.

But you lied anyway. Or that’s what Dan Loeb, an activist investor who dug up the phony credential, claims. You’ve said it was all just a mistake. You said a headhunting firm put that bogus degree on your résumé and you never noticed it. Um, yeah. OK. See, that’s where you made things worse for yourself. Because nobody’s buying that.

Anyway, you’re toast.

So go in peace! Enjoy your free time. Hit the gym, do some traveling. Write that book on leadership that you always wanted to write. Enjoy the memories of your time as CEO of a major public corporation, whatever they may be after a mere four months.

As you leave, take solace in one thing: no matter who replaces you, they won’t be able to do any better at running Yahoo. For now it’s Ross Levinsohn, who used to be at Fox and then some investment company before joining Yahoo in 2010 as head of business for North and South America.

Levinsohn will be the sixth Yahoo CEO in five years. He has the job on an interim basis, and he might not have it for long.

One thing Yahoo’s new CEO has in his favor is that it would be difficult, maybe impossible, to do any worse than the last three incompetents who ran the place.

Loeb, that hedge fund guy who pushed you out, has settled his fight with Yahoo’s board and will get three board seats, meaning that now he and his guys will be running the place. Who knows if they’ll be any happier with Levinsohn than they were with you?

And who knows if Loeb can run a company? He’s a money manager. He’s great at digging up dirt on people he doesn’t like. He’s great at writing angry letters. But running a big company requires a different set of skills. Especially when the company is as screwed up as Yahoo.

The two “experts” Loeb is bringing with him are another investor (ex-Blackstone, Goldman Sachs, private equity) and a guy who spent a whole year as chief operating officer of MTV until his sudden departure, and before that worked as a McKinsey consultant. Good luck, you captains of industry!

Probably their plan involves selling off pieces of Yahoo, like its stake in China’s Alibaba Group. That will “unlock some value,” as they say. But once that’s done these geniuses will still be faced with the problem of running Yahoo.

One thing they have in their favor is that it would be difficult, maybe impossible, to do any worse than the last three incompetents who ran the place. Not to say you are incompetent, Scott Thompson. The truth is, you weren’t in charge long enough for anyone to find out. Maybe that’s a good thing. Godspeed.