Four high-profile leadership stories advanced significantly on Thursday. All have been developing for years. Here’s what’s happening now:
-Yahoo added two new directors on Thursday, indicating that CEO Marissa Mayer and the board will continue to battle Jeff Smith’s Starboard Value, which wants Yahoo (YHOO) to sell its operating businesses as soon as possible. The move achieves two goals, adroitly covering Yahoo’s bases. First, Starboard is threatening a proxy fight if Yahoo doesn’t act fast enough, and it has until March 26 to name a competing slate of directors. By adding two directors, replacing Charles Schwab and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, who resigned recently, Yahoo increases the number of board seats Smith would have to win in order to take control. Second, the two new directors – former Morgan Stanley exec Catherine Friedman and former Broadcom CFO Eric Brandt – share deep expertise in finance. If Yahoo does end up selling operations – a committee of independent directors is fielding offers – that expertise could come in handy.
-Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, named a new co-CEO. It’s the latest move in what the firm blandly called “a planful transition from a founder-led boutique to a professionally managed institution.” Behind the scenes was recent tension between Dalio, 66, and his presumed heir, co-CEO Greg Jensen, 42. It reached a point, the WSJ reported, that they asked senior employees to vote on their behavior. The new co-CEO is Jon Rubinstein, a long-time associate of Steve Jobs at NeXT and Apple (AAPL). Some observers noted that a recent trend has run the opposite way, with high executives moving from finance to tech. But the larger trend may be that the distinction between the industries is disappearing. Increasingly, every company is a tech company. Some just realize it sooner than others.
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-A Brazilian state prosecutor charged former president Lula with money laundering and identity fraud. The corruption scandal in Brazil just keeps growing, and this is by far the biggest name so far charged with a crime. By Brazilian standards, the charge is piddling—that Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as no one calls him, secretly owned a luxury beachfront condo; he denies it. But prosecutors often build big cases from small beginnings, and this charge could conceivably lead into the much larger investigation of corruption at the state oil company, Petrobras, or to Lula’s political protégé, President Dilma Rousseff. Corruption is so rampant in Brazil, including in the judiciary, that we must be cautious in concluding anything. But a mushrooming investigation combined with a shrinking economy and an angry populace suggest that bigger changes are ahead.
–Aung San Suu Kyi’s party nominated a close adviser to be Burma’s president, a critical move in a delicate process of taking control of the government. Her National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections last year, but she can’t be president, barred by a constitutional provision that the previous government created to keep her out. She has described her role as “above the president,” which grates on Western ears, though everyone realizes it’s accurate. After 27 years of campaigning for democracy, she has won, and the world will be watching what happens now.