Kara Swisher

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Stop Me if You've Heard This One: Yahoo Management and Staff Set on Shuffle Again

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Yes, more layoffs are indeed coming to Yahoo, sources confirmed to BoomTown, but perhaps even more than have been reported.

But that’s not all, as even more top-level managers are either leaving or being moved around the ever-changing organizational structure at Yahoo (YHOO).

That includes a longtime top sales operations exec, Dan Foehner, who is about to start at Facebook next week, as well as others contemplating leaving, on their way out or are being reshuffled.

In other words, business as usual at the tumultuous company, whose nickname should be “Reorg.”

First, the layoffs, which the New York Times was first to report yesterday would be announced Tuesday (side note to Damon–this is how you link to scoops) during Yahoo’s first-quarter earnings call and could impact several hundred employees.

The quarterly results are expected to be weak by most analysts, which is why more layoffs–which had been mentioned by the company as a possibility–are an obvious move.

But several internal sources said Yahoo staff is bracing for employee departures that might to be even higher, as many as 500 or more.

That could mean a complete lopping off or sale of various business units that Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz has been evaluating since she arrived in January.

Why? Well, several employees said they were told the new round of cuts will not actually take place until June and that Yahoo HR is now preparing to follow the rules required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

Under the complex federal guidelines, Yahoo must provide a written WARN notice to affected employees “at least 60 calendar days in advance of covered plant closings and mass layoffs.” WARN notices are triggered for a variety of reasons, although a smaller number of layoffs across many units typically does not require it.

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A WARN notice is required, for example, when an employer shuts down a facility or operating unit within a single site of employment and lays off at least 50 full-time workers, as well as when an employer lays off 500 or more full-time workers at a single site of employment.

In its last two layoffs, Yahoo issued WARN notices and slashed about 2,500 jobs in total last year, leaving it with about 13,600 employees world-wide at the end of 2008.

But some of Yahoo managers are still leaving on their own.

Many top engineers, for example, have taken jobs of late at Microsoft (MSFT) after the software giant installed a Yahoo tech star, Qi Lu, as its top online exec.

And, BoomTown reported earlier, there have also been numerous departures of key staff recently, including: PR head Jill Nash, Zimbra founder Satish Dharmaraj and soon, high-ranking techie Venkat Panchapakesan.

And more still, it seems.

Yahoo’s VP of Sales Operations Foehner, for example, is headed out after a long stint at the company and is going to Facebook, said several sources inside and outside the company.

On Foehner’s Twitter page, he tweets about a new unnamed job, as well as an athletic endeavor (Foehner is a dedicated triathlete): “back in pleasanton. starting bike adventure on thurs. start new gig on monday. 9 weeks til CdA!”

There is also a lot more movement inside Yahoo, as the reorganization done by Bartz in February shakes out.

Typical of this is Mike Walrath, the high-profile former CEO of Right Media, an online ad exchange snapped up by Yahoo for $720 million in 2007, who is now an advertising-focused SVP at Yahoo.

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Now Walrath is moving out from under the purview of Yahoo North America EVP Hilary Schneider and will report to Ari Balogh, EVP of Products and CTO, as all search products seem to be rolling up through his organization. (Both Balogh and Schneider are pictured here.)

While there are other key execs at Yahoo–see this drastically downsized Yahoo management page, which used to be a lot longer–Balogh and Schneider have roughly split the company into two parts, product and engineering for Balogh and the bulk of the content and advertising businesses under Schneider.

Bartz is at the top, of course, and moving parts is not a complete surprise, said one exec, as she gets more control of the company.

“The last reorg was a blunt instrument, so now she is starting to surgically move people around or even out, after seeing what staff can and can’t do and what fat there still is,” said one exec close to the situation.

That’s no small comfort to Yahoo’s reorg-and-layoff-weary staff, especially at its Sunnyvale, Calif., HQ in the heart of Silicon Valley.

When Bartz announced her big reorganization in late February, she declared a moratorium to the endless reorganizations that had plagued the company’s troops for far too many years.

Wrote Bartz in an email to Yahoo employees about her new management lineup:

“I know you guys have reorg fatigue. Hang in there–our intention is to leave this structure in place for two to four years. We’ll continue to make adjustments as needed, but we expect this core structure to stay put.”

Perhaps the core is still solid, but a lot is still quite undefined at Yahoo, as it seeks to right its shaky fortunes.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald