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After four CEOs in five years, troubled Yahoo still trying to gain credibility.

SAN FRANCISCO — Yahoo still has credibility issues, even after casting aside CEO Scott Thompson because his official biography included a college degree that he never received.

The troubled Internet company's next challenge will be convincing its restless shareholders and demoralized employees that the turnaround work started during Thompson's tumultuous four-month stint as CEO won't be wasted.

In recent weeks, Thompson had been drawing up plans to close or sell about 50 of Yahoo's services while also antagonizing much of Silicon Valley with a lawsuit alleging the rapidly growing social network Facebook stole some of its technology from Yahoo.

Turning around the company won't be an easy task, given that Yahoo has now gone through four full-time CEOs in a five-year stretch marked by broken promises of better times ahead.

"Yahoo has been floundering for years, and it looks like there is going to be at least several more months of indirection now that another CEO is coming in," said Adam Hanft, who runs a consulting firm that specializes in brand reputation and crisis management.

Yahoo's hopes are now resting on Ross Levinsohn, its interim CEO. Levinsohn had a successful stint running Internet services within Rupert Murdoch's media empire at News Corp. before one of Yahoo's former CEOs, Carol Bartz, hired him in November 2010 to help her in her mostly fruitless attempt to fix the company.

"This may seem like a great deal of news to digest, but as you are all keenly aware, Yahoo is a dynamic, global company in a dynamic, global industry, so change — sometimes unexpected and sometimes at lightning speed — is something we will continue to live with and something we should embrace," Levinsohn wrote in a Sunday memo to employees.

"The bottom line is that the situation at Yahoo is a mess," Macquarie Securities analyst Ben Schachter wrote in a research note Monday. "It remains unclear how the new management will turn things around at Yahoo.com and how quickly yet another new strategy can be formulated."

Yahoo tried to make Levinsohn's job slightly easier by reaching a truce with dissident shareholder Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund manager who exposed the inaccurate information on Thompson's bio and had made it clear he would continue to publicly skewer the company unless he was given a chance to help develop a turnaround strategy.

To placate Loeb, Yahoo is shaking up its board of directors, which has been in a state of flux for several months.

Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock and four other directors who had already announced plans to step down at the company's annual meeting later this year are leaving the board immediately. All five of those directors signed off on the hiring of Thompson.

Three of Yahoo's vacated board seats will be filled by Loeb, and two of his allies, former MTV Networks executive Michael Wolf and turnaround specialist Harry Wilson.

After four CEOs in five years, troubled Yahoo still trying to gain credibility. 05/14/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 14, 2012 8:49pm]
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