Return of the Jerry? Co-founder Yang Back in Yahoo Spotlight Amid All-New Turmoil (And Tensions, Too).
Yesterday, amid all the noise around the abrupt firing of Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz: Enter the Jerry.
That would be Yahoo co-founder and director Jerry Yang, who appears to have emerged rather prominently again, after a long period of being mostly out of the limelight at the company.
After he — and not interim CEO Tim Morse — led both the meetings of top VPs and also its all-hands employee meeting, tongues were wagging all over the company and also outside it about whether Yang would be returning to run the company.
That does not appear to be the situation at this point, as the Silicon Valley Internet giant begins its search for a new CEO, as well as undertaking a complete strategic overview.
But his reemergence is a dicey question, since his last tenure as CEO was decidedly rocky, mostly due to a bruising and damaging takeover battle with Microsoft.
Yang got pilloried by investors and the media — I piled on, too — for his leadership and eventually stepped down in late 2008.
He was replaced two months later by Bartz, whose own tenure was cut short earlier this week in a firing by Yang and the rest of the Yahoo board.
But, even without Yang taking over, board dynamics will be a key issue going forward, since its directors are now essentially in charge of the company, no matter Morse’s appointment or an executive committee of top managers just put in place.
Given Yang’s iconic founder status as Chief Yahoo, which still carries much weight at the company, the most important relationship will be the one between him and Chairman Roy Bostock, whose own long-term performance has been justifiably questioned and is again under attack by shareholders.
According to sources, that relationship — once close — had become strained during Bartz’s leadership and has gotten even more so recently as Yahoo struggles in its turnaround efforts.
“Those two have to get along for now,” said one source close to the situation. “Because Yahoo cannot afford another internal battle.”
At the employee meeting yesterday, Yang faced a lot of withering questions from Yahoo employees, who are disheartened about the continued turmoil at the company.
As I wrote about the event:
But perhaps the toughest query was about how did the board fire the CEO without first having a plan in place, which the questioning employee noted had further worsened trust issues with Yahoo leadership.
It got the biggest applause.
Trust us, said Yang.
That is, of course, the big question for him and the Yahoo board.
And, until we find the big answer, here is the do-you-trust-me scene from the animated movie, “Aladdin”: