Weiner Not Likely to Be Audience Guru–Just Yet
While there have been recent reports that Yahoo executive Jeff Weiner might get the nod as the head of its still-open position to lead the recently formed Audience Group, sources at the company say that’s not likely, although there might be a renewed effort to convince him otherwise.
In December, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo clumsily announced a reshuffling of its leadership, a reorg that generated a lot more questions than answers. The sideshow–the departure of former COO Dan Rosensweig simultaneously with the leave-taking by was-he-pushed-or-did-he-jump Media Group head Lloyd Braun–was confusing enough (and more than a little ironic, given the hard-to-hide animosity between the pair).
But the real deal, the bestowing of broader duties in a new Advertiser and Publisher Group, including oversight of money-making arenas like classifieds and shopping, to CFO Sue Decker–and the presumption that she was the heir apparent to CEO Terry Semel–was tarnished a bit. Why? A decision to create an equally important new job (and a possible rival for Decker) for an unknown executive to lead its key product areas in search, communications, communities and media. Can we say power struggle?
Many thought Weiner, who had led Yahoo’s search effort, was the natural choice to head the group, given that he kind of did that work already, including leading the recent overhaul of its online-ad system called Panama. But while he got expanded duties, including search, social media, the Media Group and communications, his light was placed right under a bushel of the mystery Audience head. Word was that the newly married Weiner did not want the job and its likely headache-inducing challenges, but outsiders still were perplexed at the situation.
And now after almost five months of waiting, with Semel only saying last week that he had interviewed some great folks (“Hello, Tom Freston!”), but no executive in sight, the speculation has centered back on Weiner.
Except no, unless Semel decides to try a run at him. But if you take a gander at Yahoo’s festive management team chart, all Weiner has gotten is a spanking new title upgrade from Senior Vice President of the Search and Marketplaces division to Executive Vice president of the Network division, which might explain the confusion. His job includes the “consumer-facing” products like communications (email, IM), community (Groups, 360, Flickr, Bix), media (news and information and entertainment), search (Web, Answers, Delicious) and the front door of the whole place. His presumable boss will still oversee all of what Weiner does, it appears, as well as mobile and international.
So why has it taken so long to find someone good? That’s easy, say insiders and outsiders: While the position reports to Semel, the uncertainty about his tenure as CEO (though he might remain chairman) is worrisome. That means Decker or the Audience head would be the obvious inside candidates. The strong ones who are looking at the job will covet this opportunity (which will create unnecessary drama around the succession), but the less ambitious ones will have too-powerful underlings like Weiner and Marco Boerries, who is Executive Vice Cresident of the Connected Life (that’s mostly mobile phones to less evolved folks like us). That’s why Weiner, who is well liked inside the company, would be a less bumpy choice to take over the bigger job.
But that’s no fun! So, suggestions for the new Audience guru?