Yahoo! Chief To Step Down

Internet titan Yahoo! Inc. told analysts Wednesday that CEO Tim Koogle will relinquish that title and said investors shouldn’t expect the company to report a profit for the first quarter.

The news of lowered earnings projections — from a previous nickel or so a share to zero — took a nip out of Yahoo!’s already battered share price. In after-hours trading, Yahoo! fell from 20.50 to less than 19, a price not seen since the early days of the Internet bubble in 1998.

Koogle, the company’s CEO since 1995, said he will retain his position as chairman, a role he has filled since 1999, and will remain CEO until a replacement is found. In that endeavor, the company has enlisted the help of recruiting firm Spencer Stuart & Associates.

Before Yahoo!’s after-the-bell revelation to Wall Street analysts, trading of the company’s shares was halted. In fact, Yahoo! didn’t trade for most of the regular session, fueling speculation that the company might reveal news of a more upbeat nature, such as an acquisition of RealNetworks or a merger with eBay.