By Charlene Li on January 18, 2012
My first reaction to the news that Jerry Yang is leaving Yahoo! was that this was the passing of an era. I first met Jerry in 1994 when he was still a PhD student at Stanford, before he and David Filo left to run Yahoo! full time. Through bubbles and two economic downturns, Jerry has always been omnipresent in Silicon Valley.
But all good things come to pass. With the arrival of Scott Thompson as the new CEO of Yahoo!, it makes sense that Scott be given a clean slate upon which to write the future of Yahoo!. This is very much the norm for incoming CEOs, where founders are asked to take a diminished role or expected to leave the company completely.
This is the case with Jerry all the more so, as he was (is?) a vehement supporter of Yahoo! remaining independent. Regardless of Jerry’s real or perceived position toward independence or selling off assets such as Alibaba or Yahoo! Japan, it’s still all baggage hanging on from a previous era. Scott and Yahoo! need the freedom to set the vision and strategy for Yahoo!, unencumbered by the past. The last thing Scott needed was the ghost of Yahoo! Past — embodied in the very real, very smart, founder and former CEO of Yahoo! — sitting at the boardroom table.
So what does the future bring for Yahoo!? While many people have written off Yahoo! but I’m less inclined to do so for the following reasons: