Bye-Bye Yahoo, Hello Jerry Yang 5.0?
Jerry Yang, Chief Yahoo and quintessential Asian American internet entrepreneur, is no longer wildly shrieking the brand.
Instead, the words from Yang’s lips are whatever you say when something doesn’t work out, or you don’t find something.
What’s the opposite of “Eureka” that rhymes with Mitt?
The official announcement came Tuesday afternoon that Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo with David Filo in 1995, had resigned from the board and all other Yahoo related boards including Yahoo Japan Corp. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Asian web companies Yahoo partly owns. Yang’s departure clears the way for Yahoo to reinvent itself, two weeks after hiring new CEO Scott Thompson, formerly of PayPal.
Spin it any way you want, stepped down or forced out; for Yang it’s a bit like having your child kick you out as an old man. At 43, Yang is a definitely a web geezer.
Of course, we should all be so lucky to fail so grandly in old age. Yang still owns 46.6 million shares, or 3.8 percent of the company that was there B.G., before Google.
At Tuesday’s close of $15, that’s worth about $700 million or so, helping Yang achieve an estimated net worth of around $1.3 billion.
Of course, the numbers would have been double that had only Yang sold the company to Microsoft in 2008 for a reported $31 a share.
Mr. Softy was willing to pay a premium, but Yang couldn’t relinquish his dream and wouldn’t budge.
But he’d soon learn, he wasn’t just a kid at Stanford anymore, and Yahoo wasn’t just his baby. It was the shareholders’, many of whom thought rejecting the Microsoft offer was downright pigheaded.
That was the beginning of the end, as enraged shareholders led the charge to force Yang out of his CEO role.
It didn’t help that the shareholder venom coincided with a public tongue lashing from Congress on a totally different matter.
Yang was pilloried by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), who compared Yahoo’s cooperation with Chinese censors to the actions of IBM Germany, which helped the Nazis locate Jews.
Yahoo’s collaboration actually led to Chinese journalist Shi Tao being sent to prison. And though the congressional hearing was intended to allow Yang and Yahoo to appear contrite in public, Yang blew it. He refused to answer simple questions, like whether Yahoo felt any responsibility to take care of the humanitarian needs of Shi Tao’s family.
But Yang seemed beyond inarticulate. In the digital I/O world, where the complex is broken down into an elegant, logical equation, Yang seemed incapable of direct answers that would satisfy morally. It was as if we were witnessing a massive software glitch. The search engine king was stuck in a loop while in search for his–and his company’s–soul.
But that’s all in the past.
As he inches closer to his 50s, Yang is ready for the best years of his life. The first years he made his money. Now he should spend some time giving it away and doing some real good.
He has already started down the philanthropic path by funding a massive engineering building at Stanford to the tune of $75 million in 2007.
But now Yang, born in Taiwan and raised in San Jose, California, can make a real impact on a human level. An exemplary Asian American success story, he is poised to do a lot for a community of folks just like him, with many in need of his expertise and support.
There certainly are worthy projects out there that would make a difference not just to the broad Asian American community.
And you don’t need a search engine to find them.