June 19, 2007 / 2:05 AM / 10 years ago

New Yahoo CEO another Silicon Valley college dropout

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jerry Yang, one of a string of college dropouts turned Silicon Valley success stories, re-emerged on Monday to become chief executive at Yahoo Inc., the company he co-founded a dozen years ago.

Yahoo, which Yang created as a graduate student at Stanford University to monitor his personal interests in the early days of the Web, is a far more complex business these days -- and one facing stiff challenges from arch-rival Google Inc.

It's a big step up for Yang. He has held the title of Chief Yahoo at the company for more than a decade, largely playing a role in managing key business development deals while leaving the top management powers to outside hires.

"While it is a tremendous responsibility, I am ready," Yang, 38, told a conference call with investors and reporters following news that he would take the reins from Chairman and CEO Terry Semel, who will now act as non-executive chairman.

Yahoo co-founder David Filo, the quieter, more engineering-oriented of the pair, helps direct the technical operations that underpin the global network of Web properties used by an estimated 500 million Yahoo customers each month.

Yang and Filo, whose official biographies contain the standing joke that both are "currently on a leave of absence from Stanford's electrical engineering Ph.D. program," are part of a legendary line of student dropout entrepreneurs. That's not stopped Yang from serving on Stanford's Board of Trustees.

Silicon Valley is said to have gotten its start in 1938 when two Stanford graduate students, David Packard and William Hewlett, were prodded by their professor to leave campus and create a start-up in a garage in nearby Palo Alto.

Apple Computer was founded in the 1970s by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, two college dropouts. Inspired by Yahoo's own success, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin attended the same department as Yang and Filo, only to drop out and form what has become Yahoo's biggest rival in the Internet sector.

Yang, a Taiwan native who grew up in the heart of Silicon Valley after his family emigrated there, has played a leading role in Yahoo's Asian operations, where it is the dominant global player, outflanking Google and eBay Inc.

He sits on the board of Yahoo Japan Corp. and Alibaba.com, the China joint venture in which Yahoo holds a large minority stake.

His responsibilities will likely be far more day-to-day in his new role at a company that has grown to 12,000 employees and $6.4 billion in revenue.

He will be charged with making up ground against Google in Web search and advertising while also battling the rise of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.

"We must execute better," Yang said on the conference call to discuss the move, which came amid increasing pressure from shareholders for a management shake-up.

In an interview, Yang credited Semel, who has led Yahoo for the last six years, for pushing him to play a greater role in operations and technology decisions, preparing him for his new role. Semel had fostered culture of "meritocracy," he said.

"We have created a culture of winning. This culture still runs very deep," Yang, who remains a popular figure among employees, said on the conference call. "I intend to reinvigorate the culture."

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