John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Carol Bartz: The ALL CAPS CEO

The company, “frankly, could use a little management.” Uttering those words Tuesday afternoon during a conference call to discuss her appointment as CEO of Yahoo (YHOO), Carol Bartz ushered in a new era at the company.

Known for occasionally opening Autodesk executive staff meetings with a “Tell me why I shouldn’t fire the whole lot of you,” she’s no milquetoast. She’s a cancer survivor. And she’s the person who rebuilt Autodesk (ADSK) after putting down a rebellion of programmers bent on undermining her.

“Failure is not in her vocabulary,” Autodesk product manager Tony Peach said of Bartz back in 2004.

If Jerry Yang was a lower-caps CEO–literally, since he pens staff memos using all lowercase letters–Bartz appears to be his ALL CAPS successor, a seasoned tech executive and a no-BS strategist.

That said, there appears to be some disagreement over whether she’s the right person for the job.

To some, her limited Internet experience and relationship with Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang is worrisome. Eric Jackson, president of Ironfire Capital LLC and an outspoken critic of the company’s leadership, says Yahoo under Bartz will just be “more of the same.”

“(Bartz) will be operating at a different scale, and the industry relevance is also obviously missing,” Jackson told Dow Jones. “I think she is definitely going to look to Yang and the old board for guidance.”

Jeff Lindsay, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, also questioned Bartz’s appointment. “She was an inoffensive, but largely unexciting candidate–someone who would be a steady hand at the wheel–but investors were hoping for a lot more than that,” he said.

But to others, Bartz’s track record more than makes up for her lack of consumer, Internet or advertising experience. “Bartz was a highly effective CEO at Autodesk over the 1992-2006 period, helping grow ADSK into a $4B market cap, $2B+ revenue run-rate company,” Citi analyst Mark S. Mahaney wrote in a client note Tuesday. “Our brief exposure to her was also positive. She would appear to clearly bring to YHOO organizational chops, a new perspective, and substantial technology industry experience, having also served on the boards of Intel and Cisco.”

Needham analyst Mark May feels likewise: “She has an established track record of running a major public company. She has a strong technical background, having run Autodesk and served on the Boards of Cisco (CSCO), Intel (INTC), NetApp (NTAP) and others…she not only shows great leadership qualities, but is thoughtful and passionate about a number of topics important to Yahoo today.”

And that may make her just the sort of leader Yahoo needs to turn itself around. Said Allen Weiner, research VP for Gartner Media AIS, “I have a feeling that Yahoo has another chance, if not two, to regain its previous stature.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work