December 17, 2008, 6:19 PM — SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ? After taking a back seat for nearly two years, LinkedIn Corp. founder Reid Hoffman is reclaiming the CEO's job and bringing in former Yahoo Inc. executive Jeff Weiner to help steer the online professional network through its next phase of growth.
Hoffman's return as chief executive, announced Wednesday, comes as a surprise, given LinkedIn's success since he recruited Dan Nye to take over the reins of the Mountain View-based company in February 2007.
With Nye at the helm, privately held LinkedIn says it has been profitable as its revenue rose tenfold and the number of people creating profiles on its Web site more than quadrupled to 33 million.
The success helped LinkedIn raise $80 million in venture capital this year in a series of investments that valued the company at about $1 billion.
Despite those strides, LinkedIn still hasn't been able to keep pace with Facebook Inc., which runs an online network that revolves around fun rather than career advancement. Facebook now has 140 million members, about seven times more than it had in early 2007. It also once boasted a $15 billion market value, based on an investment made by Microsoft last year, but is believed to be worth less now.
(Hoffman, 41, is in line to cash in on his rival's success ? because he was an early investor in Palo Alto-based Facebook.)
In a joint interview Wednesday, Hoffman and Nye said they mutually agreed that LinkedIn would be better off with its founder calling the shots.
"When you are trying to bake a really great cake, you need one chef who is really pushing things," Hoffman said.
Signaling Hoffman still needs a strong right-hand man, LinkedIn is bringing in Weiner as interim president.
Weiner, 38, had been one of Yahoo's top executives for more than seven years. He oversaw the company's home page, e-mail and search operations before joining in the parade of personnel that have bolted from Yahoo.
Since his Yahoo departure six months ago, Weiner has been an executive-in-residence at two major venture capital firms, Greylock Partners and Accel Partners. Greylock is among LinkedIn's investors.
"This is just a natural extension of what I have been doing" at Greylock, Weiner said. He declined to say how long he intended to remain at LinkedIn, which has aspirations of going public once the stock market snaps out of its funk.
Nye, 42, plans to remain at LinkedIn through January to help with the transition and then will be rooting for Hoffman to succeed because he is walking away with stock in the company.
"I feel great about it," Nye said of his impending exit from LinkedIn.
"Making this sort of change when things are good is the best way to do it because we don't miss a beat."
After serving as CEO for the first four years of LinkedIn's existence, Hoffman had stepped back to oversee the company's product development after he lured Nye from Advent Software. LinkedIn laid the groundwork for Hoffman's return as CEO last week by hiring a respected engineer, Dipchand "Deep" Nishar, away from Google Inc. to run its product line.
Hoffman promised his vision for LinkedIn will become clearer during the first half of next year. "We have some exciting things planned," he said.