Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Here Are Some More Yahoo CEO Choices: Liddell, Rosenblatt, Desmond

It’s the typically newsless time around Christmas and New Year’s, but for once there has actually been a lot going on at Yahoo.

Last week, the Silicon Valley Internet giant’s typically moribund board decided to move ahead with negotiations to sell part of its stake in China’s Alibaba Group, as well as all of its shares in Yahoo Japan.

While that is still not a done deal, it adds clarity to the Yahoo mishegas, as current leaders there seek to turn around the company’s lagging fortunes.

Now, as Yahoo continues to contemplate a pair of partial investment bids by private equity firms Silver Lake and TPG Capital into 2012, more focus will be on the selection of a CEO candidate to take over, sources said.

While I have floated some names that have been contemplated — such as Hulu CEO Jason Kilar, Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson, former aQuantive and Microsoft exec Brian McAndrews, and board member David Kenny — I have collected some more that seem to be getting the once-over and are being mentioned internally as well as externally.

Sources said that the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee at Yahoo, which is run by independent director Patti Hart, has been looking for someone with definite public company experience, as well as expertise in large-scale management.

As to talent, candidates seem to be either good at running big platforms, or deeply knowledgeable about advertising and media as well as technology.

Another important criteria, said sources: Someone who is “collaborative” and nonconfrontational. As in, not like the former and very pugnacious CEO Carol Bartz, who was fired in September.

Thus, here’s another trio of candidates to consider, while we wait — and who knows how long that will be given that the Asian activity could have tired out for a bit this usually slow-moving board:

Chris Liddell: The former CFO of Microsoft is an interesting name that just popped up recently, and it makes some sense when you think about the possible mindset of the Yahoo board.

Liddell, who has a charming New Zealand accent, did a short stint, from January of 2010 to March of this year, as CFO at General Motors. Recently married to another former Microsoft exec, he has since been living in New York.

He apparently loves living in the Big Apple.

But when he left GM, Liddell made it clear he wanted to go for a top job next. He was among the candidates for a recent search for a CEO of Time Warner’s Time Inc. (an effort that was run by exec search firm Heidrick & Struggles, which is also conducting the Yahoo hunt).

Known as tough and decisive, he certainly is qualified to deal with complex financial situations, such as the one in which Yahoo now finds itself knee-deep. One knock: Little product or advertising experience.

Laura Desmond: While certainly a dark horse, Desmond has been queried by Heidrick, said several sources.

She is CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group, a subsidiary of Publicis, one of the largest media planning and buying agencies, making Desmond one of advertising’s most prominent players.

Well-known in Yahoo’s key market, she is considered a savvy and smart exec with a wry sense of humor.

I happen to particularly like one line from one of her bios:

“Ms. Desmond’s career has been driven by two caveats: Take intelligent risks and learn more from failure than from success.”

She could learn a lot at Yahoo. (I know, easy jab, but it works!)

David Rosenblatt: The former DoubleClick CEO, who went on to a big ad job at Google after it paid $3.2 billion for the company, is also a long shot, mostly by his own choosing.

The sharp exec is always on the short list of CEO candidates for a lot of big, splashy online jobs, but he seems to want to swim his own way.

Case in point: He was recently named CEO of New York-based 1stdibs, a relatively obscure online marketplace known among antique dealers and interior designers looking for one-of-a-kind furniture, art and lighting.

Yes, that’s right: Fancy lamps.

Rosenblatt also serves on the boards at Group Commerce, Twitter and IAC.

All that Internet ad and e-commerce experience is exactly why Rosenblatt would be one of the better choices for CEO of Yahoo. But, for him, I would guess taking such a job is probably in the life’s-too-short category.

More to come, obvi!


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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo