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Jerry Yang leaves Yahoo in surprise departure

Jerry Yang is severing all formal ties with Yahoo by resigning all positions including his seat on the board of directors.

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In a letter to Yahoo's chairman of the board, Yang said he was leaving to pursue "other interests outside of Yahoo" and was "enthusiastic" about Thompson as the choice to helm the company.

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Yang, 43, is also resigning from the boards of Yahoo Japan and Alibaba Group Holdings.

Respected in the industry as one of the founding figures of the Web, Yang has come under fire over the years from investors and to some extent within the company's internal ranks.

"Lots of people think he holds up innovation there with old ideas and (is) slow to decide and that he's not an innovator himself for being at such a high level," said one former Yahoo employee.

"People have very high expectations for founders. Everyone wants a Steve Jobs," the employee said, referring to Apple's co-founder who brought the company back from near death and transformed it into the world's most valuable tech company.

Some analysts say the Yahoo board's indecision stems in part from Yang's sway in the company. Disillusioned by the company's flip-flopping, they warn that the rest of the board remained much the same as the one that rejected Microsoft's unsolicited takeover bid when Yang was CEO.

"Jerry Yang was certainly an impediment toward anything happening," said Morningstar analyst Rick Summer. "This is a company that's been mired by a bunch of competing interests going in different directions. It was never clear what this board's direction has been."

Microsoft's bid was worth about $44 billion. Its share price was subsequently pummeled by the global financial crisis and its current market value stands at about $20 billion.

More recently, Yang and Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock have incurred the wrath of some major Yahoo shareholders for their handling of the "strategic review" the company was pursuing, in which discussions have included the possibility of being sold, taken private or broken up.

Yang's efforts to seek a minority investment in Yahoo from private equity firms enraged several large shareholders, including hedge fund Third Point, which accused Yang of pursuing a deal that was in "his best personal interests" but not aligned with shareholders' interests.

Yahoo has also been exploring a deal to unload most of its prized Asian assets in a complex deal involving Alibaba, valued at roughly $17 billion, sources told Reuters last month.

Alibaba Group's founder, Jack Ma, whose personal relationship with Yang led to Yahoo buying a 40 percent stake in Alibaba in 2005, said he looked forward to continuing a "constructive relationship" with Yahoo.

Susquehanna analyst Herman Leung said: "I had thought that Jerry Yang was a lifer at Yahoo.

"Without him on the board, this could smooth a potential transaction. What that transaction is, is any of our guesses right now."

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