A Mini-Chat With New Yahoo CFO
While Yahoo still has not found the mystery executive for its recently created Audience unit, it did move to solidify Sue Decker’s new job as head of the Advertiser and Publisher Group by filling her former job and one that she was still holding as chief financial officer.
I had a short chat with the newly appointed Blake Jorgensen, who will start next month overseeing finance, investor relations and the mergers and acquisitions group, reporting directly to Yahoo CEO Terry Semel. He is a good friend of Decker and her husband (and was actually best man in their wedding) and also part of the tightknit banking community in the San Francisco Bay area.
The 47-year-old comes from Thomas Weisel Partners, where he was co-founder of the firm started after Weisel and a clutch of bankers departed Montgomery Securities. At Weisel, he served as chief operating officer, co-director of investment banking and a member of the executive committee. Before that, he worked as an independent management consultant. He attended Stanford University as an undergrad and got his business degree from Harvard Business School.
“Ultimately, I helped manage the overall firm … and spent the last four or five years building the organization and managing it,” said Jorgensen of his stint at Weisel. “But we had the mentality of player/coaches … and I worked on everything from capital-raising to M&A.”
That included being around for the last Internet bubble. “One of the most important lessons I learned was how you had to be extremely smart in how you grow your company,” said Jorgensen. “It is like driving with the accelerator and brake at the same time. There is an art to not stifling growth.”
Jorgensen said he thought the move to Yahoo was a unique opportunity for him, especially since the “role of the CFO is much broader than your traditional CFO.”
He is particularly interested in how much opportunity he sees ahead, especially pointing out that the state of Internet advertising is still in its infancy, which is quite correct. “The secular shift in advertising is fascinating, and the flow [of ad dollars] to the Internet is still very early on in that process,” Jorgensen noted.
That’s why he discounts all the talk about the dangers of Yahoo falling too far behind Google in the ad race. “I was not hired to come in and rebuild, but come in and focus on growth,” he said. “As I look at Yahoo, at least from the outside looking in, it is No. 1 in display advertising … and its sales force has an unmatched position, plus there is the benefit from the strengthening of its search product.”
Adds Jorgensen: “I have spent a lot of time talking to people … and I don’t think anyone is ready to write Yahoo off in any fashion. … Clearly, their ability to monetize [products and content] puts them in an extremely strong position.”
Of the future, Jorgensen is bullish on video (“You’ll see yet another explosion of demand as costs go down”) and is likely to be using his banking skills at Yahoo.
“There have always been a very good stream of acquisitions, because I think it is much harder to be a public company today than it has ever been,” he said. “So those of less than $500 million market cap are choosing to partner up.”
Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.