Is Yahoo Quietly Looking For a New CEO?

Business Insider reports that Yahoo (YHOO) board is looking for replacement for CEO Bartz. Yahoo’s stock has fallen by 10 percent in the past three days and continues getting slaughtered on news that the company had learned that its prized investment in Chinese Internet company Alibaba Group in which Yahoo holds a 43 percent stake, had transferred ownership of its Alipay, an online payment service that some shareholders value in the billions of dollars, to Alibaba Group CEO Jack Ma without notice to or approval by the Alibaba board, on which Yahoo has a seat. Last night, Yahoo said it first learned of the move on March 31. This morning Alibaba rejected Yahoo’s account of the timing saying that the Web Portal has known about plans to change the structure of Alipay since July 2009.

[From FT]: The Alibaba directors were “told in a July 2009 board meeting that majority shareholding in Alipay had been transferred into Chinese ownership”, Alibaba spokesman John Spelich said.

Business Insider [BI] notes that the transfer of a valuable Alibaba subsidiary, Alipay, to another company “is quickly developing into a big scandal, and it’s the type of event that can provide leverage for a shake up at the top of the company.”

“CEO Carol Bartz’s contract with the company will end in about a year and a half, and everyone expects that she’ll then be done,” BI said.

BI also said that according to an industry source “Yahoo doesn’t want to oust Bartz without a replacement on deck. Thus, Yahoo’s board has been quietly reaching out to people over the past several months to gauge their interest in taking on the job as CEO…If and when a suitable replacement is found, the board might hire the person and render Bartz a lame duck (which she is rapidly becoming regardless).”

Yahoo’s shares have fallen nearly 14% since Wednesday. The ticker is currently trading down 61 cents, or 3.42%, to $16.58. Day’s range: $15.96 – $16.69.

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