Trickle of departures at Yahoo turns into a flood

SAN FRANCISCO — For more than two years, executives and other senior employees have been leaving their jobs at Yahoo at a steady, persistent trickle.

The trickle has turned into a flood.

Within days of Yahoo announcing last week that merger talks with Microsoft had ended, and that Yahoo would instead sign a search advertising partnership with its No. 1 rival, Google, three executive vice presidents, two senior vice presidents and handful of other well-regarded employees have announced that they intend to leave.

The precipitous exodus is hollowing out senior management ranks at Yahoo. It is also raising new questions about the future of the company and its top executives. Analyst say that the departures suggest that Jerry Yang, the chief executive, and Susan Decker, the president, are increasingly isolated.

“Wall Street has lost all confidence at this point,” Ross Sandler, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said.

Yang and the board of Yahoo are also under pressure from Carl Icahn, the activist investor, who is waging a fight for control of the board.

Yahoo insiders confirmed Thursday that three more senior executives, Qi Lu, Brad Garlinghouse and Vish Makhijani, were leaving the company.

Yahoo declined to confirm the departures. In a statement, the company said: “We have a deep and talented management team across all areas of the company.” It said that Yahoo was experiencing “the attrition that’s to be expected in the Internet industry.” Garlinghouse and Makhijani did not return calls or e-mail messages seeking comment. Lu could not be reached.

Among the newly departing executives, Garlinghouse is perhaps the best known outside of Yahoo. He is senior vice president of communications and communities, and is responsible for vital products like Yahoo’s e-mail and messaging services, Yahoo Groups and Flickr, the popular photo sharing site.

He gained notoriety when an internal memo he wrote was leaked to The Wall Street Journal in November 2006. The memo, which he named the Peanut Butter Manifesto, criticized Yahoo for spreading its resources too thinly across too many projects.

Makhijani, who is senior vice president of Yahoo’s search group, is leaving to join Yandex, the leading Russian search engine, the Yahoo insiders said.

Jeff Weiner, who is executive vice president of Yahoo’s network division and the boss of Garlinghouse and Makhijani, announced Monday that he was leaving to divide his time between two venture capital firms. Usama Fayyad, who is chief data officer and the executive vice president in charge of Yahoo’s research organization, also announced his departure this week.

The departures have also affected the ranks of senior engineers and managers. Last week, Jeremy Zawodny, who joined the company in 1999 and helped start its developer network, said he was leaving. Earlier this week, Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield, the husband-and-wife team who founded Flickr and sold it to Yahoo in 2005, also announced their departures.

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