Terry Semel

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Terry Semel
Terry Semel, Web 2.0 Conference.jpg
Semel at the Web 2.0 Conference 2005
Born (1943-02-24) February 24, 1943 (age 73)
Brooklyn, New York
Residence East Gate Old Bel Air, Los Angeles
Nationality American
Education Bachelor of Science
Alma mater Long Island University
Spouse(s) Maryann Semel (divorced)
Jane (Bovingdon) Semel
(m. 1977 - present)
Children 4
Parent(s) Mildred Wenig Semel
Ben Semel

Terry Semel (born February 24, 1943) is an American corporate executive who was the chairman and CEO of Yahoo! Incorporated from 2001 to 2007. Previously, he spent 24 years at Warner Bros., where he served as chairman and co-chief executive officer. He resigned as CEO due in part to pressure from shareholders' dissatisfaction over his compensation (in 2006, salary $1, stock options worth $70 million) and performance.

Early life[edit]

Semel was born to a Jewish family[1][2] in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Mildred (née Wenig) and Ben Semel.[3] His father was a women's coat designer and his mother was a bus company executive. He was raised in Bay Terrace, a community in Bayside, Queens. He was the middle child and has two sisters.[4] At the age of 23, he graduated from Long Island University in Brooklyn with a B.S. degree in accounting.


Yahoo compensation[edit]

In April 2001, Semel was granted stock options with an SEC Fair Value of over $110 million as a bonus to join Yahoo. During June 2006, his annual salary was reduced to one dollar.

Yahoo!-China cooperation controversy[edit]

As CEO, Semel approved Yahoo!'s cooperation with Chinese officials to release previously confidential Yahoo! information to the Chinese government. This action by Yahoo! was not well received and he showed signs of regret as to how that information was being used. For example, in a widely publicized exchange at The Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital conference, he was asked if Yahoo! would have cooperated with Nazi Germany. In response, Semel, who is Jewish, stated, "I don’t know how I would have felt then." He added, "I don’t feel good about what’s happening in China today."[5] When questioned on this topic in a Q & A discussion with Peter Bazalgette at The Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention in 2005, his response was "We have to abide by the laws in the countries in which we operate."

Lost chance to take over Google[edit]

After joining Yahoo, company founders Jerry Yang and David Filo suggested he look at buying Google, whose founders looked up Yahoo's inventors. Semel had dinner with Larry Page and Sergey Brin, asking them what their business was with Yahoo paying only $7 million annually as its biggest licensor of Google search technology. So Semel proposed to buy Google. They replied that they wanted $1 billion and didn't want to sell. Semel said he'd think about the price. After another dinner Semel agreed to the $1 billion. Page and Brin replied that they wanted $3 billion and didn't want to sell.[citation needed]


Semel ended his six-year tenure as chief executive officer Monday, June 18, 2007, and handed over the reins to co-founder Jerry Yang in the Internet icon's latest attempt to regain investor confidence. At age 64, he remained chairman in a non-executive role.[6] Besides naming Yang as its new CEO, Yahoo appointed Susan Decker as its president. Having recently been promoted to oversee Yahoo's advertising operations, she had widely been seen as his apparent heir. He later resigned from his post as non-executive Chairman from Yahoo completely on January 31, 2008.

Other activities[edit]

Semel is currently co-chair of the board of trustees of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)[7] In 2005, he was given the UCLA Medal, that University's highest honor, and the "Legend in Leadership Award" from the Chief Executive Leadership Institute of the Yale School of Management.


Semel was married to Maryann Semel; they divorced in 1974.[citation needed] In 1977,[3] he married Jane Bovingdon,[8] a former secretary to the actress Susan George. He has a son, Eric (b. March 15, 1969),[9] and three daughters, Courtenay Semel (b. November 11, 1979), Lily Bovingdon Semel (b. 1985), and Kate Semel (b. March, 1992).[citation needed].

See also[edit]


Business positions
Preceded by
Timothy Koogle
Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo!
Succeeded by
Jerry Yang