Truth, Lies and Bios: Yahoo's Ex-CEO and the Internet's Everlasting Memory

NEWS ANALYSIS: You can bet that over the weekend a lot of people, and not just high-level executives, went to LinkedIn and made sure their resumes are cleansed of even the slightest exaggerations or outright fictions.

Wonder how those HR folks at Yahoo and PayPal are feeling right about now. All they had to do is make a Web query or even just a phone call to check on Scott Thompson's background.

You can bet that over the weekend a lot of people, and not just high-level executives, went to LinkedIn and made sure their resumes are cleansed of any slight exaggerations or downright fictions.


Mark Twain had it right more than a century ago: "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." If more people would take that into consideration, we'd all have much lighter consciences.

Everybody Lies, the Web Never Forgets

Okay, everybody lies at some point. Some people lie more than others, and some people lie bigger than others. You can fib a little in a conversation in coffee hour after church and it might not matter all that much. But if you lie and it's documented on the Internet, well, that big or little falsehood is NEVER going to go away.

And if you happen to be a big-bucks CEO like Thompson, a person whose performance affects lots of people and their families, then you have to be especially vigilant that what you say, do and report is far above reproach.

It's just so easy to check on these things.

A Lesson Learned?

With all this in mind, Yahoo undoubtedly has learned a huge lesson from which others ought to learn. Notre Dame learned the same lesson a few years ago, when it found out its new head football coach George O'Leary had fudged his backgrounder (quite a bit, actually). In fact, a long list of business and cultural leaders have tried to sneak inaccurate information by their followers over the years.

But will organizations learn? Probably not. This story will fade into oblivion soon, and others will embellish their resumes, and the cycle will start again. You can bet on it.

In any case, here is Yahoo's interim CEO, Ross Levinsohn's, backgrounder. Hopefully, company vetters have combed through this one. If they don't, shareholder Daniel Loeb will. If they haven't, you could certainly do it yourself.

  • Name: Ross Levinsohn
  • Title: Interim CEO, Yahoo, effective May 13
  • Professional background: Most recently, executive vice president and head of global media for Yahoo, where he led strategy, engineering and content creation. Prior positions included president of News Corp.€™s Fox Interactive Media; senior management at AltaVista, an early search engine; and programming work at CBS Sportsline and HBO
  • Co-founder: Fuse Capital, an investment and strategic equity management firm
  • Board memberships: Freedom Communications, Bogart Pediatric Cancer Research Program
  • Education: B.A. in communications from American University

Late-Breaking Thompson News

There was yet another news factor involving Yahoo and Thompson that surfaced May 14: Thompson disclosed to colleagues within the last few days that he has thyroid cancer, The Wall Street Journal reported May 14.

According to The Journal's sources, the 54-year-old executive disclosed he had cancer to the company's board of directors and several colleagues last week, prior to his resignation over the weekend.

The Journal said Thompson apparently agreed to resign after the company's board obtained evidence that contradicted his claim of innocence over his misstated academic record. This contradicts earlier reports that Thompson was fired.

Okay, we know what you might be thinking, and yes, it is insensitive and perhaps even crass. But this is business: Based on the events of the last 11 days, do you think Yahoo called Thompson's doctor to check?

Chris Preimesberger is eWEEK's Editor for Features and Analysis. Twitter: @editingwhiz

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...