No man is above the law — not even multibillionaire Google CEO Eric Schmidt. At least that's what we hear from a well-placed tipster, who says Schmidt recently confessed to having been pulled over by the cops last month in Los Angeles for talking on his cell phone while driving. (California law recently changed to require the use of a headset.) Oh, but it gets worse for Schmidt.We haven't gotten anyone from Google or Yahoo to confirm this bit, but we're told cops interrupted a call Schmidt was making to Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang to discuss how to get a proposed advertising deal past government regulators. The deal was blocked. Schmidt, who endorsed Barack Obama late in the election cycle and got tapped to his board of economic advisors, could use his newfound political clout to get the pesky law overturned. The cell-phone rule, or the antitrust one — we're not sure which one is more bothersome to him. (Photoillustration by Richard Blakeley)
Among the many windmills Jerry Yang tilted at in his brief career as Yahoo's CEO was his devotion to Web search. It veered on an obsession for him. It played into his decision to resist Microsoft's offers to shower him with cash, first for his whole company, then for just its search business. Is it a coincidence, then, that Yahoo's top search engineer has left a day after Yang stepped down? A tipster tells us Sean Suchter resigned yesterday, and speculates that he may be joining Microsoft.If so, Microsoft may have gotten Yahoo's search business on the cheap. Our tipster writes:
♦ The U.S. consumer price index fell 1.0 percent in October compared to the previous month, the biggest drop in 61 years. [WSJ]
♦ Citigroup is liquidating another one of its hedge funds after it plunged 53 percent last month. Also: Citi's stock dropped to its lowest level in 13 years yesterday. [FT, NYP]
♦ Just because he spends his days taking aim at Wall Streeters doesn't mean Andrew Cuomo left any bigwig financiers off the guest list for his birthday party/fundraiser on Dec. 2. [NYP]
♦ The CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler who pleaded poverty in front of Congress yesterday flew their private jets to get there. [ABC News]
♦ Most hedge funds are pulling back right now, but hedge fund king John Paulson actually celebrated on Monday night with a lavish dinner for more than 100 at the Metropolitan Club. [DB]
Now that he's stepping down as Yahoo's CEO, will Jerry Yang ever take a public stage again, as he did at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last January? Suggest an appropriately elegiacal caption in the comments; the best will become the post's new headline. Yesterday's winner: ShreeCeto, for "Hey Jason! What's going on with your valuation?" (Photo by Yodel Anecdotal)
Yesterday, Yahoo was worth $14.7 billion. Today, it's worth $16 billion. Why the boost? Stock traders bid up Yahoo's stock after CEO Jerry Yang's surprise ouster — partly out of speculation that Microsoft might make a new bid for the company with Yang out of the picture, and partly, we think, out of sheer relief.
Can it get any dumber? Jerry Yang's post on Yahoo's corporate blog, "Stepping down," is throwing me an error message that suggests Yahoo has banned the IP address of my Sprint wireless Internet card, but only for their corporate blog. And yet the post is visible on the blog's homepage. It seems too bad to be true: Yang can't even say goodbye right. Update: The "999" error indicates that the server automatically throttled itself to prevent a surge in traffic from taking the site down. Yang's resignation blog post had made the front page of Digg, the news-discussion site. What does it say about Yahoo's competence at building reliable websites if Digg can take down the boss's blog?
Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like to talk about their hopes of "changing the world." Yes, of course: Changing the world from one in which they are poor to one in which they are fabulously wealthy. The question in the air is whether the founders of companies do a better job at creating wealth, for themselves and their investors, than professional managers. With Yahoo announcing Jerry Yang's plans to step down as CEO, it would seem like a losing time for founders. But Yang is an exceptional case; he took his hands off the steering wheel when Yahoo had a mere five employees, and never really ran anything until he stepped in as CEO last June. Most founders of successful startups eagerly seize power, and have to be forcibly dislodged from the driver's seat. The best never let go. Just take a long-term look at the stock market, and you'll see why.
It is one of the most heartwarming narratives of Silicon Valley — the founder is abused and evicted by the suits and then returns triumphant. But that's not how it worked out for Jerry Yang, ousted as Yahoo's CEO Monday by a suddenly restive board. Until yesterday, Yang was never much abused by Yahoo's suits; if anything, he was coddled for more than a decade, granted the honorific of "Chief Yahoo" and allowed a say in the Internet portal's strategy. He held a seat on the company's board, and played a role in courting executives like former CEO Terry Semel; but until last year, he never had to operate a business.Experience is underrated in Silicon Valley. Novices are thought to do better than old hands. But the truth is that the intensity of actually running a startup — raising money, hiring people, assembling desks by hand — is better training than that provided by most business schools. Looked at that way, Yang gave up way too early, hiring a professional CEO when the company only had five employees. A graduate-school dropout, Yang had no management experience, and no predilection for the task. He is still, to this day, famously indecisive and fatally nice. Steve Jobs has rarely spoken about the heartbreaking experience of being cast out of Apple, the company he cofounded. In June 2005, though, he gave a commencement speech at Stanford University and openly discussed it. "I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me," he said. "The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life." Yang's exit, like his entrance, is far too soft. He will remain CEO until the board finds a replacement; he will remain Chief Yahoo after that. Such kid-gloves treatment does him no favors. For his own good, Yahoo should exile Yang, as Apple did with Jobs, and give him a chance, at last, to prove himself. His golf score may suffer; his nights may prove sleepless. But they say tough economic times are when the best companies are born. Perhaps he'll correct the mistakes he made at Yahoo with his next company. And maybe — if there's still a Yahoo left to welcome him back, if it hasn't been swallowed up by Microsoft or News Corp. or AT&T — he'll return to his first company a conquering hero. And prove that Silicon Valley's tale of the prodigal founder isn't so mythical.
The Associated Press does it again. "Yahoo's Yang decides he's no longer the right CEO." That's gotta be a fun job, coming up with the dryly sarcastic headlines. But you gotta be careful with those, because unwitting Web surfers who don't get the jokes-inside-jokes voice of the Internet might actually think you're reporting that Jerry Yang made the decision.