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 72)
Brooklyn, New York
Residence East Gate Old Bel Air, Los Angeles
Nationality American
Education Bachelor of Science
Alma mater Long Island University
Religion Jewish[1]
Spouse(s) Maryann Semel (divorced)
Jane (Bovingdon) Semel
(m. 1977 - present)
Children 4

Terry Semel (born February 24, 1943) is an American corporate executive who was the chairman and CEO of Yahoo! Incorporated. Previously, Semel spent 24 years at Warner Bros., where he served as chairman and co-chief executive officer. In June 2007, Semel resigned as CEO due in part to pressure from shareholders' dissatisfaction over Semel's compensation (in 2006 - salary $1, stock options worth $70 million) and performance. Semel had earned over $500 million in his tenure at Yahoo, while Yahoo's stock appreciated at 40% per year. In the same period, Yahoo's closest competitor, Google, saw stock growth of about 55% per year.

Early life[edit]

Semel was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Mildred (née Wenig) and Ben Semel.[2] 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.[3] 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. On March 10, 2004 Semel was granted options to purchase Yahoo stock worth $120 million at an exercise price of $41.70 ( the low closing price for 2004 was $41.65). Within a month that stock was trading at $56.00, making him a profit of $50 million on that grant alone. Between 2003 and 2006 he netted $450 million as a result of exercising options and selling stock. On March 7, 2007 he held stock and unexercised options with a value of $350 million, which he was granted as compensation. During June 2006, Terry Semel's annual salary was reduced to one dollar, in exchange for millions of stock options in Yahoo. His previous annual salary was US$600,000.

Over the past three years Semel sold 18.1 million of his stock options for a gain of $450 million. He maintains another 18.6 million unexercised stock options.

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 Semel 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, Semel 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." [4] 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. Another dinner and Semel agreed to the $1 billion. Larry Page and Sergey 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. Semel, 64, remained chairman in a non-executive role.[5] Besides naming Yang as its new CEO, Yahoo appointed Susan Decker as its president. Decker, who had been recently promoted to oversee Yahoo's advertising operations, had widely been seen as Semel's apparent heir. Semel 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)[6] and serves on the Board of Directors of Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, The Paley Center for Media and the Guggenheim Museum. In June 2004, Semel and his wife made a donation of $25 million to the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. As such, the name of the Institute was renamed to the "Jane and Terry Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA."[7] In 2005, Semel 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.


His wife, Jane (Bovingdon) Semel, was a former secretary to the actress Susan George.[citation needed] They married in 1977. Semel has a son, Eric (b. March 15, 1969), and three daughters, Courtenay Semel (b. November 11, 1979), Lily Bovingdon Semel (b. 1985), and Kate Semel (b. March, 1992).[citation needed]. Semel had been previously married to Maryann Semel but they divorced in 1974.[citation needed].

Semel lives in the East Gate Old Bel Air section of Los Angeles, California.

His son, Eric Semel, is the CEO of 365 Media Group in the UK.[citation needed] His daughter Courtenay Semel appeared on the reality show Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive in 2005.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bart, Peter. The gross: the hits, the flops-- the summer that ate Hollywood, p. 41. St. Martin's Griffin, 2000. ISBN 0-312-25391-5. Accessed August 25, 2011. "Semel, who was Jewish, worked his way up through an equally unglamorous side of the business — distribution — earning a reputation as cooldeal-maker and patient strategist."
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Terry Semel Biography
  4. ^ Yahoo Defends China Cooperation, The Wall Street Journal
  5. ^ "Yahoo boss steps down from post". BBC. 2007-06-18. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  6. ^ http://www.lacma.org/overview
  7. ^ http://today.ucla.edu/2004/040629news_gift.html
Business positions
Preceded by
Timothy Koogle
Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo!
Succeeded by
Jerry Yang