The computer science degree that wasn t (PDF) proved the undoing of Scott Thompson at Yahoo ( YHOO ) . The struggling Web portal today named Ross Levinsohn its interimchief executive after Thompson resigned. Presumably, Levinsohn sbachelor s degree in communications from American Universitychecks out. So what else is on his r sum ? For the past two yearshe was Yahoo s head of global media. Levinsohn built a reputationfor online media savvy at News Corp. |
( NWS ) , where he worked from 2000 to 2006 and rose from runningFoxSports.com to overseeing all of Rupert Murdoch s Web ambitionsas head of Interactive Media. In that role he was instrumental in one of Murdoch s more disastrous new media forays the purchase of MySpace and its parent company Intermix for $580 million in July 2005.Hard as it may be to remember, MySpace dwarfed Facebook at the time, with 22 million monthly visitors to Facebook s 8million, and was still rising to its 2008 peak of more than 75million monthly visitors. That story ended with News Corp finallycutting its losses and selling the largely abandoned property for $35 million last year notexactly a highlight on anyone s curriculum vitae. Still, as reports of his promotion have pointed out , Levinsohn took part in MySpace s greatest coup: inking a $900million deal with Google ( GOOG ) to run the site s search function and place some of its ads.
Yetaccording to Stealing Myspace , Julia Angwin s excellent corporate history, Levinsohn played abackground role in the deal. The point man was Scout.com founderJim Heckman, who pulled Google into the bidding and hammered outterms with its negotiator, Tim Armstrong, during a corporateretreat at Pebble Beach, Calif., in July 2006. Levinsohn was one of a pair of executives who gave finalapproval. Angwin portrays Levinsohn primarily as a pawn inMurdoch s games of corporate intrigue.
When Murdoch put him incharge of the entire Internet empire, writes Angwin, the hugeelevation was a way to make sure that Murdoch could dominate therelationship and interfere as much as he liked. Levinsohn and MySpace founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson neverreally got along, especially after News Corp. moved the companyoffice from hip Santa Monica to staid Beverly Hills. And Levinsohn,said colleagues, referred to managing the fast-growing MySpace as holding a tiger by the tail.
News Corp. relieved him of that problem in late 2006. Now that he has hold of the woundedanimal that is Yahoo, Levinsohn may come to miss the tiger.
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