The tumultuous year and a half tenure for Jerry Yang at Yahoo (Yhoo) NASDAQ is about to come to an end. Yang, a co-founder of the once formidable Internet and search company, returned to Yahoo in July 2007. He returned in what many considered as the “white knight” to replace former CEO, Terry Semel. Semel, who was not a technologist, had tried to expand Yahoo into a media company as a way to compete with its prime competitor Google. Semel’s efforts had been failing and Yahoo continued to lag and fall further behind Google. Expectations on Yang’s return and leadership also failed to turn out as hoped. During Yang’s short-lived tenure the firm has only seen its fortunes continue to decline. According to a piece in CNN,
Things only got worse for Yang, due to both his own and previous management missteps and also external forces, including a hostile takeover attempt by Microsoft (MSFT), which was followed by a proxy fight by activist shareholder Carl Icahn.
Yahoo also saw its search business decline and its strong graphical ad business suffer in the midst of the current economic meltdown.
There has also been an exodus of major executives over the last year, along with recently announced layoffs of 10 percent of the company, which are set to take place December 10.
In addition, Yahoo’s controversial search ad with Google (GOOG) recently collapsed, and its talks to merge with Time Warner (TWX) online unit AOL have dragged on.
Yahoo has initiated a CEO search with the help of executive search firm Heidrick and Struggles. Many names are being bandied about as a possible successor to Yang. A number of the names being suggested include a former Microsoft executive and current Microsoft executive who according to some analysts might help to increase the likelihood of a deal with Microsoft. Two names being raised are Kevin Johnson and Brian McAndrews. Johnson originally headed Microsoft’s first attempt to buy Yahoo. He recently left Microsoft to become the CEO of Juniper Networks (see earlier blog). It is difficult to imagine he would leave that position at this point to head up Yahoo. McAndrews is with Microsoft and is currently SVP of the Advertising and Publishing Solutions Group. Other individuals include Susan Decker, the current president of Yahoo and a close associate of Yang’s along with Peter Chernin of the News Corp., Jan Miller former AOL head, Meg Whitman former head of eBay and others. Whoever is chosen to replace Yang will be on the hot seat.
My own guess is someone from the outside will be chosen and possibly a name not yet being floated. It is nearly impossible to conceive of any successor who will be able to run Yahoo as an independent firm going forward. Some kind of deal will need to be made. For the moment, Microsoft will remain on the sidelines until a replacement for Yang is found. Once this happens we will see whether Microsoft jumps back into the fray. Stay tuned, this sure to be an interesting but bumpy ride.