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Where have you gone, Jerry Yang?
Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO ) co-founder, onetime CEO, and public face has announced his resignation.
"The time has come for me to pursue other interests outside of Yahoo!," Yang is quoted as saying in yesterday's press release.
Why should Yang leave now? He stuck around as the dot-com bubble burst, an attempt to go Hollywood with Terry Semel fizzled out, investors soured after rejecting Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) juicy buyout offer, and Carol Bartz's ill-advised decision to outsource its search through Bing played out. What's so bad after 17 years of ups and downs at the dot-com giant to find Yang willing to cut ties with his company in 2012?
Investors are suspicious about his timing. Speculators are encouraged.
The stock traded higher on the news. Yang shouldn't take that personally. The market isn't applauding because he's leaving. Speculators are simply piling on, assuming that Yahoo! is about to unload its Asian assets or sell the company whole.
Resigning is the proud thing to do when the company you started is about to get gutted.
Some would argue that staying would be the financially prudent thing to do. If Yahoo! is on the verge of being acquired, surely the buyer would either be able to reward Yang nicely for sticking around or feed him a chunky severance in cutting him loose.
However, what if Yahoo! is actually selling just some of its parts? What if he doesn't like the assets that will remain after the carving knives clear out?
Either way, it's not as if Yang needs to make this a financial decision. He has money.
The meaty question is, where will he land next? What "other interests outside of Yahoo!" will he pursue?
Despite Yahoo!'s meandering state in recent years, Yang would look good at other dot-com heavies. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) is hiring in China again. Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU ) has its heart set on growth outside of China.
Yang is also resigning from the boards of Yahoo! Japan and Alibaba, so clearly he's a free agent in every sense. Yahoo!'s success in Asia came as a sharp contrast to its shortcomings closer to home. In other words, Yang would be a hot name overseas.
Obviously he can also strike out on his own, but it would be easier to land as an executive at a dot-com darling in Google or Baidu than risk being let down by his entrepreneurial chops.
These will be an interesting next few weeks at Yahoo!.
If you want to follow this saga closely, add Yahoo! to My Watchlist.