Internet search pioneer Jerry Yang, who with Stanford University classmate David Filo co-founded Yahoo in 1995, resigned Jan. 17 from the board of directors of his own company.
Yang also said he is withdrawing from the boards of Yahoo Japan Corp. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
For about seven years, Yahoo ranked as the world's No. 1 Internet search engine. However, Google bypassed it in general usage in about 2002. Facebook, Twitter and other social media services also have taken page views from Yahoo, which is still the No. 2 search provider and whose Yahoo Mail is the world's leading Webmail application.
Yang had been a board member since the company's founding in 1995 but has not had day-to-day operational responsibility for the company since he resigned as CEO in January 2009, following a shareholder dispute about the direction of the company.
Yang was a focal point of controversy in 2008 after he persuaded the board to turn down an offer from Microsoft to acquire the company for $44.6 billion, or about $31 a share. Yang feared that a Microsoft takeover would irrevocably damage Yahoo's business model and image.
Yahoo's common stock in July 2008 was selling for about $23 per share and had been as high as $33.63 in October 2007. The stock closed at $15.48 on Jan. 17.
Shares of Yahoo gained 3.4 percent in after-hours trading on Jan. 17 on the news of Yang's departure. Analysts told Reuters that Yang's exit might speed up discussions surrounding a multibillion-dollar deal to sell much of Yahoo's prize assets -- its 40 percent slice of China's Alibaba, as well as its investment in Yahoo Japan.
Four CEOs Since 2007
Since 2007, the company has had four CEOs: former Warner Bros. Chairman and co-CEO Terry Semel (2004-2007), Yang (2007-2009), Autodesk CEO Carol Bartz (2009-2011), and former PayPal President Scott Thompson, hired on Jan. 4, 2012. Semel resigned in 2007, with Yang replacing him. Bartz was fired in September 2011.
All four of the chief executives failed to restore Yahoo's sagging brand and business results after Google soared past the company in search and passed it for the first time in display advertising early in 2011.
In a letter to Yahoo's board of directors President Roy Bostock, Yang wrote:
"My time at Yahoo!, from its founding to the present, has encompassed some of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life. However, the time has come for me to pursue other interests outside of Yahoo! As I leave the company I co-founded nearly 17 years ago, I am enthusiastic about the appointment of Scott Thompson as Chief Executive Officer and his ability, along with the entire Yahoo! leadership team, to guide Yahoo! into an exciting and successful future."
eWEEK Senior Writer Clint Boulton contributed to this story.