Yahoo Directors Approve 'Titanic Deck Chair Reorganization Proposal'
Turns out the “fire in the belly” with which former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel last week promised to lead the company was little more than a bit of prefigurative acid reflux. At least that’s the feeling one gets looking over the coverage of the company’s humbling management shake-up yesterday, which may have been an ouster, and not a friendly parting of ways negotiated from Yahoo’s purple velveteen polyblend couches. “Did [Semel] go willingly,” Kara Swisher asks on this site’s BoomTown. “No, if you talk to a lot of sources at the Internet giant, who fingered Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang as the one who–politely–pulled the trigger yesterday on the CEO he had been key to hiring with much fanfare and initially terrific results many years ago.”
Whacked by his own crew. I guess Jerry Yang has some stones after all. Question is, does he have the management discipline to run an outfit like Yahoo? Consensus seems to be no, but he’ll have to do until the company finds a candidate who does. “They had to do something,” Charlene Li, an analyst at Forrester Research, told News.com. “There was an attitude of ‘anyone but Terry’ at this point.”
Over at Valleywag, Nick Denton was even more forthright in his assessment of the Yahoo co-founder as once and future CEO. “Jerry Yang, pleasant though he is, can’t be anything but a stopgap,” he wrote. “Sure, there are heartening precedents for the triumphant return of a chief exec. Steve Jobs came back to Apple, a charismatic entrepreneur, seasoned by reverses, to turn around the company. But Jerry Yang is no Steve Jobs.”
No, he isn’t. And it’s possible Yahoo may well rue the day it put him back in charge. “A few weeks ago Jerry Yang was the invisible guy,” said venture capitalist Paul Kedrosky. “Last week at the Yahoo annual Terry Semel inexplicably started pitching the idea of Yang as Yahoo CTO. And this week, he’s the CEO. Quite the change, and not one that’s likely to sit well with Wall Street the more people ponder it.”
Depends on how long it takes for folks to remember Yang’s role in Yahoo’s acquisitions of Broadcast.com and GeoCities, I suppose. In any event, few observers seem particularly excited to see Yang driving the company (OK, maybe one.) Said Scott Kessler, analyst at Standard & Poor’s, “I’m not so sure that this ‘new management’ really is very new and capable of significant and necessary changes.” And that’s the real point here, because nothing ever really changes at Yahoo–even when it seems to.
“This move, as with all things Yahoo of late, is typical–a lot of very dramatic things happen all the time, but nothing actually seems to change dramatically,” said Swisher. “Will Semel’s departure really set off a spate of excited innovation within the company, or will it further exhaust the troops by coming off as more deck-chair movement?”
That’s a difficult question to answer when Yahoo’s new strategy seems to hinge on a trip in the Wayback Machine. “Time will tell if this is good for Yahoo. But what strikes me is that there doesn’t seem like there will be any radical changes,” said Derek Brown, an analyst with Cantor Fitzgerald. “As I see it, to the extent that Yahoo is facing challenges today, Yang and [Yahoo President Sue] Decker were on board when the elements were put in place that got Yahoo to the point where it is today.”