Passed Over for CEO Role, Ross Levinsohn Exits Yahoo

Departure Was Expected After Mayer Hiring

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Ross Levinsohn, who led Yahoo for two months as interim CEO, is leaving the company. His departure was widely expected after the Yahoo board picked Google exec Marissa Mayer as permanent CEO.

Ross Levinsohn with Katie Couric at Yahoo's 'upfront' presentation for advertisers.
Ross Levinsohn with Katie Couric at Yahoo's 'upfront' presentation for advertisers.

He sent out an email this afternoon that said: "I wanted to let you know that my time at Yahoo has come to an end. It has been an incredible journey for me and I could not be prouder of what we accomplished over the past few years helping define Yahoo as a leader in digital media and advertising. Yahoo is an amazing brand and company, and I leave knowing we did all we could to help inform and entertain more than 700 million users each month. Leading this company has been one of the best experiences of my career, but it is time for me to look for the next challenge."

AllThingsD first reported the news. Many people in the advertising community had hoped that Ms. Mayer would hang onto Mr. Levinsohn, who has built strong ties with agencies and other media companies over the years. But there was a strong belief Ms. Mayer would choose to surround herself with former colleagues that she knows well.

There was also the lingering question of whether Mr. Levinsohn would be able to accept that the board passed over him for the chief executive role. Mr. Levinsohn's tenure was characterized by big content deals with other media companies such as CNBC, ABC News and Clear Channel -- and one big acquisition: Interclick, the ad network. With the appointment of Ms. Mayer, Yahoo's board decided to turn the focus away from pure media and back to products that tie users into the Yahoo experience.

Mr. Levinsohn exited pretty well: his severance included a year's base salary, his target annual bonus and a pro-rated portion of his 2013 bonus, as well as about $1 million in restricted stock and 250,000 stock options.

Mr. Levinsohn's exit raises questions about the future other high-level execs at the company who are former colleagues and formed his inner circle. Among them are Mickie Rosen, Yahoo's head of media under Mr. Levinsohn; Michael Barrett, who Mr. Levinsohn poached from Google to be his chief revenue officer shortly before Ms. Mayer was hired; Peter Foster, who runs all audience-based advertising; and Jim Heckman his chief strategist and dealmaker.

Reached by Ad Age , Mr. Heckman said he's still at the company.

Ms. Mayer informed the Yahoo troops, many hired by and loyal to Mr. Levinsohn, in a memo today:


Dear Yahoos --
I'm writing to let you know that Ross Levinsohn will be leaving the company at the end of July. Ross has been an important and powerful contributor here at Yahoo since he joined in 2010. During May and June, Ross stepped into an incredibly tough role as interim CEO and did a terrific job -- he really helped keep the company moving, closed important deals, and assembled a very talented team. I'm very grateful to Ross for his leadership and work through out his tenure at Yahoo. His contributions will be missed.

Ross will be in Sunnyvale tomorrow (Tuesday, July 31st). Please take the opportunity to drop by and thank him for all that he has done for the company. I hope you can join me in wishing Ross well and letting him know how much you've appreciated him as a colleague.


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