By MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP
SAN FRANCISCO– Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is sorry for allowing an inaccuracy about his education to appear in his official biography, but not remorseful enough to heed calls for him to resign.
Thompson apologized for the uproar caused by the misinformation in a memo sent Monday to the troubled Internet company’s employees. Yahoo Inc. provided a copy of the memo to The Associated Press.
The memo didn’t offer any explanation why Thompson’s bio has periodically listed a bachelor’s degree in computer science that he never received. The exaggeration was most recently repeated in documents that Yahoo filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“We have all been working very hard to move the company forward, and this has had the opposite effect,” Thompson wrote. “For that, I take full responsibility, and I want to apologize to you.” He assured Yahoo employees that he remains focused on taking the steps that he believes are needed to revive Yahoo’s revenue growth and boost its long-sagging stock, even with his own job imperiled.
Thompson’s note of contrition came on the same day that an activist hedge fund that owns a 5.8 percent stake in Yahoo escalated its effort to oust the CEO for unethical conduct.
The fund, Third Point LLC, issued a legal demand to review internal Yahoo documents that may explain how much research the company’s board did about Thompson’s background before hiring him in January. Third Point contends it’s entitled to the records under the laws of Delaware, where Yahoo is incorporated.
Yahoo didn’t respond to requests for comments about Third Point’s demand.
After initially brushing off the misinformation as an “inadvertent error,” Yahoo’s board opened an investigation into the circumstances that led to the computer science degree being included in Thompson’s bio. Thompson told employees that he “respects the process” and will provide whatever information the board requests.
Besides appearing in Thompson’s bio in the recent SEC documents and on Yahoo’s own website, the bogus degree also appeared in other summaries about the executive’s accomplishments during his previous job running eBay Inc.’s online payment service, PayPal.
Several experts in corporate ethics and board governance have said the recurring deception regarding Thompson’s education is probably serious enough to end his short reign as CEO.
In his memo, Thompson sounded like a man determined to stick around so he can carry out a turnaround plan that so far has focused on cutting costs. Last month, he laid off 2,000 employees, or 14 percent of the workforce, and now he is working on closing or selling about 50 Yahoo services that have been financial laggards. He is also exploring selling part of Yahoo’s roughly 40 percent stake in Alibaba Group, a thriving Chinese Internet company that investors view as Yahoo’s most valuable asset.