Kara Swisher

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New Prospect for Yahoo CEO: Carol Bartz

How did BoomTown forget former Autodesk exec Carol Bartz for Yahoo CEO?

Yahoo certainly hasn’t. According to several sources familiar with the Yahoo (YHOO) search for a new leader to replace Co-founder Jerry Yang, the company is looking hard at the longtime and high-profile Silicon Valley executive (pictured here).

Many I have spoken to inside and outside of Yahoo with knowledge of situation said the company is winnowing down its list to a few internal and external candidates and Bartz is a favorite.

While some speculate that Yahoo could announce a candidate sooner than later, it’s long past when Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock promised some big investors a new and serious leader would be in place.

Some sources close to the board still think Yahoo could still end up opting for one of its own.

If so, the leading choice is most likely board member John Chapple, former Nextel CEO, although sources say he does not want the post now, preferring an outsider for Yahoo CEO. The other board member mentioned is Maggie Wilderotter, a former Microsoft exec.

Whoever gets the job needs to move quickly on a range of actions needed–from deciding the strategy with regard to a search deal with Microsoft (MSFT) to determining whether a long-running merger deal with Time Warner (TWX) online unit AOL should happen.

So far, Yahoo’s board has also gotten a lot more rebuffs from outside execs than expected for the top spot.

This is no surprise, due to the highly difficult task of turning the company around. While rich in assets and online traffic, Yahoo has suffered over the last year from a range of internal and external troubles.

Bartz is certainly an experienced and very well-regarded tech exec, with the talent to turn things around. She served as chairman, president and CEO for 14 years at the San Rafael, Calif.-based company that makes design software.

While there, Bartz presided over huge growth at Autodesk (ADSK), stepping down in April of 2006, and has since served as its executive chairman.

She also put in stints at other big tech companies, including Sun Microsystems (JAVA), Digital Equipment Corporation and 3M (MMM).

More interestingly, Bartz is also on the boards of a blue chip list of companies and organizations, including Intel (INTC), Cisco Systems (CSCO), NetApp (NTAP), and the Foundation for the National Medals of Science and Technology.

Yang is also on the board of Cisco, and Yahoo President Sue Decker is on Intel’s, so Bartz is a well known quantity to Yahoo.

She is also exactly the kind of serious, seasoned public company CEO with tech experience whom Yahoo’s board has told investors and others it is looking for, with skills to pull off mergers and think strategically.

But Bartz also was in charge of a more old-school kind of tech company, and has less experience in the faster-moving Web environment that prevails now.

Although she toughed it out successfully, Bartz underwent difficult times during the Web 1.0 era, in fact, when investors were worried about Autodesk’s prospects in the online era.

Still, Bartz also has less advertising experience, which is Yahoo’s principal business.

Nonetheless, she is well-liked in the tech community and has ties to key companies Yahoo must deal with, including Microsoft.

Whether Bartz herself is interested in taking over a massive overhaul like Yahoo is unclear. I reached out to her for a comment, but have not heard back yet.

According to her resume on Autodesk’s Web site, Bartz holds an honors degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin.


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