Mr. Semel's resignation comes after a recent shareholders meeting in Santa Clara, Calif., in which he was criticized for being late to the acquisition party and trailing Google in paid-search revenue. Losing executives such as Chief Operating Officer Dan Rosensweig and Yahoo Media Group Chief Lloyd Braun under an executive reshuffle in December also raised a few red flags among investors.
First-quarter profits down 11%
Yahoo's first-quarter profit also dropped 11% this year, due to higher operating costs, and revenue decreased to a growth rate of 20% for branded advertising, or display advertising.
"As the board and I discussed my future goals and plans, I was clear in telling them my desire to step back from an executive role sooner rather than later," Mr. Semel said in a conference call with investors today. "The past year has been a difficult one for Yahoo -- none of us are satisfied with the company's financial performance. But we have tremendous fundamental strengths and remain the leader in internet advertising markets around the globe and a growing presence in growing markets in Asia."
He pointed to the successful launch of Panama, its new search platform, and the combination of Mr. Yang and Ms. Decker as the most promising assets for the company going forward. "We've been true partners for the past six years and will always be lifetime friends for me."
Decker stands pat for outlook
In her remarks, Ms. Decker said second-quarter earnings -- to be announced in a call on July 17 -- will not be affected on the change in executives. The call will also address the pending transactions with Yahoo Japan and Right Media. "I feel it's important to assure you of the overall performance in the ranges previously discussed," she said.
A former Warner Bros. executive, Mr. Semel, 64, has striven to keep a distance from his studio days since taking the job in 2001. "I've never wanted Yahoo to become a major production company," he said at the Ad Age 360 Conference in March. "Taking a proactive leadership position about how to transform some of my business to online is something everyone has to do," he said.
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Contributing: Brooke Capps