Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo-Geddon: Leaders to Debate Layoffs, Asset Sales, Search Deals and More Today, as a Major Restructuring Looms

What is Yahoo?

While that has been the perennially unanswered question at the Silicon Valley Internet giant for many years, according to dozens of sources inside and outside the company, Yahoo’s leadership is now deeply embroiled in an intense — and sometimes very tense and fast-changing — debate over a number of critical issues about what is expected to be the most sweeping restructuring in its history.

Top executives at the company are conducting what is likely to be a lively all-day “offsite” meeting today (which is actually taking place on Yahoo’s Sunnyvale campus) to continue to discuss, among other things: How and where the company will make large-scale cuts in staff, which I have previously reported were coming and will perhaps be numbering in the thousands; which businesses to sell off and which to keep, including its ad tech unit; the correct structure for the reconfigured entity; and who will be left to run it all when it is all settled.

Also up for debate is the best course of a two-pronged effort — being led primarily by CFO Tim Morse and members of his corporate strategy team — to renegotiate its search and advertising partnership deal with Microsoft, while also engaging in active discussions with Google about it taking over Yahoo’s search business.

“Everything is on the table,” said one person. “And anything could be blown up by Scott.”

The Scott being referenced is new CEO Scott Thompson, who has become something of a whirling dervish since he arrived at Yahoo only three months ago from the top job at eBay’s PayPal unit.

If shaking up the place — as he has promised in public and internal statements, including a recent memo in which he wrote that “real change is coming” — was his aim, Thompson is certainly doing just that and more.

Along with immediately initiating a massive effort to figure out the best way to restructure the long-troubled and ever-meandering company and all that entails, Thompson has also been meeting players all over Silicon Valley for advice; stopping and then restarting negotiating discussions with Yahoo’s Asian partners, visiting major advertising clients; and engaging in talks with activist shareholder Dan Loeb about settling a looming proxy fight, while also packing the board with allies to help fend off said battle.

And, oh yes, he also took a little time out from his busy schedule to sue Yahoo partner Facebook for patent violations.

But the real action is the remaking of Yahoo in his image. To do so, Thompson has been furiously evaluating the entire company, with the help of Boston Consulting Group and a small group of execs, especially Morse.

While it is all still undecided, he seems to be leaning toward Yahoo as a drastically slimmed-down entity without a central product group and with a simplified structure that includes global units — such as media, commerce and sales organizations — which will again be in charge of the entire development of their offerings.

(I will note, since I have been covering Yahoo since near its founding, this is a structure that has been in place before. In other words, at least for dinosaurs like me, there is nothing new under the sun here.)

The changes being contemplated include, as I have written previously, the possible sale or drastic reconfiguration of its ad technology business, which will effect at least 1,000 employees. Another 1,500 involved in Yahoo’s search business will also be impacted, depending on talks the company has been having with Microsoft, as well as Google, about better monetization.

Such a structure brings up a lot of questions about how, and by whom, it will be run. To figure it out, Thompson has been evaluating — sometimes rather brusquely — his own top managers, as well as looking for new ones outside the company, such as a search for a chief marketing officer and other key positions.

Confused? Perhaps, but not for much longer, said multiple sources, as Thompson moves closer to delivering his answer to the what-Yahoo-is question.

Yahoo PR — by the way, it will not escape Thompson’s change machine, either! — declined comment.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik