Before resigning as chief executive of Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) over the weekend, Scott Thompson disclosed to the company's board of directors and several colleagues that he has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, according to people familiar with the matter.
The cancer disclosure by the 54-year-old Mr. Thompson was made late last week, as evidence emerged that appeared to contradict the CEO's assertions that he wasn't responsible for an error in his academic record, one of these people said.
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The decision to step down from Yahoo was in part influenced by Mr. Thompson's cancer diagnosis, said this person. The diagnosis had occurred in recent days, added this person, while the board was investigating why the executive's academic record had erroneously included a computer science degree. The error in Mr. Thompson's resume appeared in a Yahoo regulatory filing and on Yahoo's and other corporate websites.
Yahoo on Sunday said Mr. Thompson was resigning as CEO and would be succeeded by Ross Levinsohn, a senior Yahoo executive who becomes interim CEO. Yahoo also announced a deal to end a proxy fight with Third Point LLC, which is a large shareholder of the Sunnyvale, Calif., Internet company.
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Mr. Thompson told one colleague that he didn't want to publicly discuss the cancer diagnosis because he wanted to keep personal details private, this person said. He told the colleague he is beginning the treatment process for the cancer, this person said.
On Friday, Mr. Thompson also began to tell some colleagues he would step down, said another person familiar with the matter.
Mr. Thompson couldn't be reached for comment late Sunday.
The cancer news is another twist in the recent events at Yahoo, which over the weekend also said it would appoint several new board members including Third Point head Dan Loeb. Third Point for months had been waging a proxy fight to win seats on Yahoo's board. The hedge fund had spotted Mr. Thompson's misstated academic record in a Yahoo regulatory filing in late April and disclosed its finding on May 3.
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Pressure mounted on the board while it sought answers as to how the mistake was made, and why the error had also been contained in historical press articles about Mr. Thompson and on corporate websites that described his biography, most recently that of eBay Inc.'s (EBAY) PayPal.
While Mr. Thompson's biography in the Yahoo regulatory filing and other websites said he had earned a bachelor's degree in accounting and computer science, he only had earned an accounting degree.
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After the controversy erupted, Mr. Thompson told colleagues and Yahoo's board he didn't know about the error until it was discovered by Third Point. But on Friday an executive-search firm that had placed Mr. Thompson at PayPal told Yahoo's board that it had evidence that appeared to contradict those claims.
Mr. Thompson's agreement to leave Yahoo, along with some severance pay, was finalized on Saturday, according to a person familiar with the matter.
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