Coach Carol: Are They Crying? There's No Crying! There's No Crying at Yahoo!
One of the first things Carol Bartz said when she made her public debut as new Yahoo CEO was that everyone should give the company “some friggin’ breathing room.”
Some heard “frickin’,” while others heard “frackin’.”
Whatever the exact invective Bartz used, the tough talk was presumably designed for maximum impact to impose a definitive I’m-in-charge-here leadership style that had been sorely lacking at Yahoo for a long time.
Bartz has been employing the creative curse word a lot of late, trying to shape up Yahoo as Tom Hanks–playing the grumpily drunk but effective coach Jimmy Dugan–did to the Rockford Peaches in “A League of Their Own.”
But she is certainly going to need a lot more than that kind of mental mojo to get the company going.
And, more importantly, to convince Wall Street that she can cure what has been ailing Yahoo (YHOO) as it announces what will likely be a dismal fourth-quarter earnings report tomorrow.
“I’ve been passively abused for a year now by Yahoo management and I am in no mood to be aggressively abused by them, unless there is some concrete strategic plan soon,” said one major investor.
Well, the abuse might continue a little while longer, as Bartz gets the dubious honor of delivering what most expect to be even weaker results and perhaps worse guidance for the upcoming quarter.
That’s why, if BoomTown were to guess, to focus attention away from the bad news, Bartz seems like the type to unveil some sort of meatier plan this week, including cost cuts and some serious trimming of Yahoo’s businesses.
Bartz has, in fact, been meeting with most top execs over the last two weeks, with no entourage (except her assistant, Judy) and little formality, asking a lot of questions and apparently trying to gauge executive talent.
One exec told me that he expects this will result in a lot more management turmoil over the next few month, with multiple goodbyes–with some departing due to their loyalty to former CEO Jerry Yang and President Sue Decker, some due to not having the perseverance to live through a wrenching turnaround effort and some due to the fact that they should simply be let go.
Not surprisingly, some inside Yahoo relish this, while others do not.
“Carol has been cutting through the BS like a knife,” said one Yahoo insider, who admires her forthright manner.
Said another who does not, calling it too brash: “She is like a buzzsaw who just wants to cut without knowing a lot of what the impact will be.”
(Ironically, Buzzsaw is an “on-demand collaborative project management solution” offered by Autodesk, the software company that Bartz ruled for 14 years until 2006.)
She certainly has to get up to speed. While her hands are clean, with the weak economy and continuing internal turmoil, Yahoo’s financial quarterly report tomorrow is going to be a mess.
According to estimates from MarketWatch, Yahoo will report about $1.4 billion in revenue, up two percent, earning 13 cents a share for the quarter. That’s down from last year’s 15 cents and down further from the year before’s 19 cents.
That’s not exactly the direction one would hope for.
Display advertising, which is Yahoo’s dominant business, is expected to show the worst performance, with its search business stronger.
Still, search is not exactly considered to be Yahoo’s buoy in tough times or for the future, which is why analysts will likely focus on Bartz’s thoughts on a search deal with Microsoft (MSFT).
The last time she was asked at a Yahoo all-hands meeting, Bartz noted that her “gut” told her that selling might not be such a good idea. Of course, this was said exactly as Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock was meeting with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to discuss such a deal.
Other questions high on the list should be about cost-cutting, defining what Yahoo’s core business is and, of course, what she will do about the long discussions her predecessors had been having with Time Warner (TWX) over merging with its AOL online unit.
One thing that everyone I have talked inside Yahoo has said is that Bartz has been asking a lot of questions about all this and more since she arrived.
This is a good thing.
But while she asked–let’s be honest, demanded–some breathing room, after tomorrow is out of the way, the only thing investors and employees will want is some answers, and quickly.
Until then, here’s that great video scene from “A League of Their Own” about no crying in baseball: