He’s actually from Southern California, and sometimes he puts off a surfer vibe. As the interim CEO talked, Loeb stood at the back of the room and played with his Black Berry.
Wolf, a former president of MTV, was consulting for Third Point on media investments when Loeb asked him to join the Yahoo board and lead its search committee for a new CEO. It was going to be a doozy, as he planned to seriously alter the direction of Yahoo.
He wanted it to stop competing with technology businesses like Google and Microsoft and focus entirely on competing with media and content businesses like Disney, Time Warner, and News Corporation.
All of them believed that the meeting was a formality — that Levinsohn was going to get the job. For the two months prior, the chairman of Yahoo’s board, Fred Amoroso, had made it clear that he was going to do everything he could to make sure Levinsohn and his team would be running the company for the foreseeable future. He told Yahoo employees this during an all-hands meeting in May.
He’d even joined a sales call to express support for Levinsohn to Yahoo advertisers — an oddly hands-on move for a chairman.
As part of this transition, Levinsohn wanted to spin off, sell, or shut down several Yahoo business units.
He said doing so would reduce Yahoo’s head count by as many as 10,000 employees, and increase its earnings before taxes and interest by as much as 50 percent.
There was Jim Heckman, Levinsohn’s top dealmaker, who’d spent months negotiating a huge deal with Microsoft.
There was Shashi Seth, Yahoo’s top product management executive, already planning a long-needed update to Yahoo Mail and the Yahoo home page.
The agenda for the meeting: Levinsohn was going to brief the directors on his plan for Yahoo, should he be named permanent CEO.
Levinsohn walked into the room; all of his top executives followed.
Levinsohn told him he no longer felt like he was getting the job. That night, Levinsohn flew to Sun Valley, Idaho, where investment bank Allen & Co.