Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) admitted Chief Executive Scott Thompson doesn't have the academic credentials that the company said he did, a statement that came after the company's chief critic questioned his credibility and character.
The accusation and response indicate the rising tension in the ongoing proxy fight between Yahoo and hedge fund Third Point LLC, run by activist investor Dan Loeb. Third Point, which owns about 5% of Yahoo, has been agitating for an overhaul of the company's board; Yahoo, meanwhile, is in the midst of a turnaround effort under Thompson, who was appointed in January.
In a letter dated Thursday to Yahoo's board, Loeb said Thompson's degree from Stonehill College was just in accounting, and not in accounting and computer science as Yahoo has said in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Such embellishment "undermines his credibility as a technology expert and reflects poorly on the character of the CEO," Loeb wrote in the letter.
Yahoo, in a subsequent statement, admitted the mistake and attributed it to an "inadvertent error."
"This in no way alters that fact that Mr. Thompson is a highly qualified executive with a successful track record leading large consumer technology companies," the company said.
Stonehill College also confirmed the mistake.
In its letter, Third Point also cited filings describing Yahoo director Patti Hart as holding a degree in marketing and economics from Illinois State University. The fund said Hart's degree is only in business administration.
Yahoo said Hart holds a business administration degree with specialities in marketing and economics.
Yahoo shares fell 1.7% to $15.40 amid a broad market downturn Thursday. The stock is off 14% over the past year.
-By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2909; Andrew.FitzGerald@dowjones.com
--Ben Rubin contributed to this report