Five chief execs in three years is not a stat to be proud of, but has Yahoo found the answer to its business woes in the shape of new CEO and Google turncoat Marissa Mayer?
The turbulence experienced by Yahoo over the past few years looks set to continue a little while longer after the surprise appointment of former Google exec Mayer as its new CEO. While most people could be forgiven for thinking that this time the job might land in the lap of long-suffering interim CEO Ross Levinsohn, it seems the board had other ideas. As Mayer walked in the door, Levinsohn walked out.
Without the experience and contact book of Levinsohn its felt that Mayer might struggle to make her mark – particularly as she lacks the advertising know-how of her predecessor and that certainly seems to be where the sector’s headed. Unique and innovative products are great, but you need to make money to develop them and that’s where the advertising dollars count.
No one can deny that Mayer has the credentials. She was one of only 20 employees when she joined Google in 1999 as their first female engineer and during her tenure she oversaw the company’s famous minimal homepage layout. She was also instrumental in the development of Google Maps, Books and Product Search, as well as Toolbar, iGoogle and Gmail.
As an engineer — a tecchie — what can Mayer bring to the table to ensure Yahoo begins to generate some much-needed cash and sails into calmer waters?
A 21% drop in sales to just under $5billion in 2011 saw Yahoo users spending less than three hours on the site in May this year. Sounds okay until you learn that the Facebook users spent an average of six hours on that site during the same period. Coupled with the fact that the business has gone through five CEOs in three years, means all eyes are on Mayer and everyone is keen to see what her first move might be.
In the few weeks since her appointment Mayer has already stated that she intends to make some strategic hires and even dabble in acquisitions to get Yahoo back on track and developing more innovative products.
An interesting article written by Kara Swisher and published recently by AllThingsD.com make some predictions about how Mayer is likely to shake things up, but also points out that following the appointment, a number of key Yahoo-ers followed Ross Levinsohn out the door.
Adam Bechtel, former vp of Infrastructure has moved on to Apple, while product whizz Jonathan Katzman. A vital member of the team behind ‘Social Bar, one of Yahoo’s most successful developments so far, which is used widely for sharing on Facebook, Katzman with join the Minerva Project as chief product officer. Other less high-profile employees have also moved on, or announced an intention to do so.
As some leave, so others, including a number of former Google execs, make their appearance in the boardroom, including Google PR exec Anne Espiritu as new head of corporate communications. Other possible hires from the Google camp include shopping exec Samir Samat and social networking guru Orkut Büyükkökten.
“It’s not Mayer’s fault, but some of us are just done,” said one person who is leaving. “A lot of us just can’t take another restructuring.”
It seems Mayer’s tech knowledge might not be as important as her people skills if she wants to turn Yahoo’s fortunes around.