Tumblr founder David Karp steps down as CEO, COO Jeff D’Onofrio takes over

Remember Tumblr? You’d be forgiven for having forgotten. Ever since Yahoo acquired the microblogging platform for $1.1 billion in May 2013, Tumblr has tumbled out of the zeitgeist. Four years after the acquisition, Tumblr remains, though its founder will not.

Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp is leaving the company, and its president and COO, Jeff D’Onofrio, will replace him, a spokesperson for Verizon’s Oath, the division that houses Tumblr, confirmed on Monday. The New York Times reporter Mike Isaac reported the news earlier on Monday through Twitter.

“David Karp will depart Oath by the end of the year. David founded Tumblr ten years ago as a space for the world’s creators, and we thank him for his commitment and passion driving the growth of the platform to almost 380 million blogs and over 155 billion posts. Going forward, Jeff D’Onofrio, President and COO of Tumblr, will continue to lead the team,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“I beg you to understand that my decision comes after months of reflection on my personal ambitions, and at no cost to my hopefulness for Tumblr’s future or the impact I know it can have,” Karp wrote in an email to Tumblr’s employees, which he published to his personal Tumblr on Monday.

The news of Karp’s departure may not be such a surprise. Once a social media success story, Tumblr has been a flop since being acquired by Yahoo. Agency executives have said that Yahoo had mismanaged the acquisition, leading Tumblr to fade from advertisers’ radar and fail to generate the revenue that Yahoo had anticipated. In 2014, Yahoo’s then-CEO Marissa Mayer said that Tumblr would generate more than $100 million in revenue in 2015. That never happened. Then in 2016, Yahoo wrote down Tumblr’s value by $712 million and even subbed in Facebook to help sell ads on Tumblr.

The timing of Karp’s departure also may not be such a surprise. When Yahoo acquired his company in 2013, he agreed to a four-year earn-out, over which time Yahoo would release his stock in the portal — whose sale to Verizon closed in June 2017 — as well as $40 million in cash, but he would only receive the full amount if he remained an employee for those four years, according to Yahoo’s regulatory filings. Now those four years are up, and Karp is out.


About The Author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.