Kara Swisher

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It’s Official: Yahoo Lays Off 2,000 Employees — 14 Percent of Workforce

In a move that AllThingsD had previously reported was coming, Yahoo said it had laid off 2,000 employees, or 14 percent of the workforce.

“Today’s actions are an important next step toward a bold, new Yahoo! — smaller, nimbler, more profitable and better equipped to innovate as fast as our customers and our industry require,” said Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson in a statement. “Unfortunately, reaching that goal requires the tough decision to eliminate positions.”

While Yahoo has had periodic layoffs over the years, this one is its most significant in its history, and will also result in another large-scale restructuring of the management organization. More cuts are also likely to follow in the months ahead, due to the reshaping of Yahoo.

The latest employee action is being pushed by Thompson, who joined the Silicon Valley Internet giant in January from eBay’s PayPal unit.

“Change is never easy,” he wrote in an internal email to Yahoo employees (it is below in its entirety), in a well-worn cliché I am dead certain few appreciated hearing today from the top leader.

At an internal meeting with top staff last night, Thompson — who has gotten what seems to be a well-deserved reputation for chewing folks out at Yahoo — was more direct with the execs gathered, berating them extensively for not delivering and getting the company to this sorry point.

Ouch, Scott! It’s Easter, so it might be time for some forgiveness. (And no more ranting about my reporting to those inside Yahoo, since I have been 100 percent accurate so far. FYI, will aim for 110 percent next week!)

Yahoo said it will save about $375 million with the cuts, incurring a $125 to $145 million pretax cash charge for employee severance in its second quarter. Before the cuts, Yahoo had 14,000 staffers and has many thousands more hired as contractors.

The layoffs touch all units of the company, but the hardest hit is the product division, which is headed by Blake Irving, as well as its marketing, research and international units. Yahoo gave no details on the layoffs other than the number.

But the fate of two key parts of the soon-to-be-blown-apart unit — Yahoo’s advertising technology businesses, Right Media and APT, and its search business — is still being contemplated, as I have previously reported. Possible scenarios include a sale or a joint venture transaction for both, which employ thousands of Yahoo staffers.

The layoffs tomorrow are not the end of the road in cutting costs. Along with the likely shedding of its ad tech and search businesses, Yahoo leadership is also looking at future cuts as it evaluates current businesses, which could lop even more employees off its roster.

That said, Yahoo will be doubling down in some older and new arenas, so there would also be simultaneous hiring in the months ahead.

As wrenching as they will be today at Yahoo, the layoffs come as no surprise. Thompson had told employees in memos and also in recent meetings that “real change” was coming to the company.

Along with the trauma of the layoffs, Yahoo is also facing two other tense face-offs externally. In one, activist shareholder Third Point is waging a proxy fight for board seats and stepped up the public pressure this week; and Facebook struck back hard at Yahoo’s patent lawsuit with a counterclaim of its own.

After the layoffs tomorrow, sources say Yahoo will be announcing a new organization by next week. Thompson, along with outside consultants he has hired from the Boston Consulting Group, are making what appear to be profound changes.

Sources said that Yahoo will most likely be comprised of a global media division, one that encompasses Yahoo’s consumer products businesses and one focused on global and regional sales. There could also be a small organization of about 50 employees aimed at future innovation.

Americas head Ross Levinsohn is pegged to run the media arm, which will also include its leads/commerce businesses, such as autos; Shashi Seth — who now heads search and marketplaces — is likely to run consumer products, which will include Yahoo’s communications and search businesses.

Yahoo has already been conducting a search for a new worldwide sales head, who will also be boss of the U.S., Asia and Europe, Middle East and Africa sales regions. Rich Riley, who was recently running EMEA, is reportedly the pick for U.S. sales; Rose Tsou, who is running Asia, would presumably stay put; Yahoo is looking for an EMEA sales lead.

Some current operational execs — such as service engineering and ops head David Dibble, CFO Tim Morse, and top lawyer Mike Callahan — are likely to continue to operate as before.

One big question mark is how Chief Product Officer Irving fits in the possible new org, in which the new units get control of their product development. Irving has reportedly had several incoming job offers, although it is not clear if he has responded to that interest.

But today, the focus is on the layoffs and letting go all those employees, many of whom have worked at Yahoo for years. Even if it will result in a stronger Yahoo, as Thompson promises, it is still a very sad day in Sunnyvale.

Here is a video on the topic that I did with the WSJ.com “Digits” show today, after the cuts were announced early this morning:

Here’s the entire terse statement from Yahoo:

Yahoo! Statement

SUNNYVALE, Calif. — (BUSINESS WIRE) — Yahoo! today confirmed that it is taking important next steps to reshape the company for the future.

“Today’s actions are an important next step toward a bold, new Yahoo! — smaller, nimbler, more profitable and better equipped to innovate as fast as our customers and our industry require. We are intensifying our efforts on our core businesses and redeploying resources to our most urgent priorities. Our goal is to get back to our core purpose — putting our users and advertisers first — and we are moving aggressively to achieve that goal,” said Scott Thompson, CEO of Yahoo!. “Unfortunately, reaching that goal requires the tough decision to eliminate positions. We deeply value our people and all they’ve contributed to Yahoo!.”

Yahoo! has a solid foundation — nearly 700 million users and thousands of advertisers that engage with Yahoo! properties regularly and trust the company with their data and their business. Through its restructuring efforts, Yahoo! intends to grow by responding more quickly to customer needs and competing more effectively in areas where it can win. Yahoo! has identified key parts of the business — a select group of core businesses, the platforms that support those core businesses, and the data that drives deep personalization for users and ROI for advertisers — where the company will intensify efforts and redeploy resources globally, all focused on increasing shareholder value. With a clear focus on profitability and growth, the company will be disciplined in its investments and radically simplify how it builds, launches and maintains many of its properties and products.

Today, the company will begin the process of informing employees about these changes. As part of that effort, approximately 2,000 people will be notified of job elimination or phased transition.

Yahoo! expects to realize approximately $375 million of annualized savings upon completion of all employee transitions. The company currently expects to recognize the majority of an estimated $125 to $145 million pretax cash charge relating to employee severance in its second quarter financial results. The company may incur additional charges in connection with this action. More information will be provided about Yahoo!’s future direction in conjunction with the release of its first quarter financial results on April 17, 2012.

And here is Thompson’s memo to employees, stating the obvious and with nothing new from previous statements and internal memos:

Yahoos –-

Today we are restructuring Yahoo! to give ourselves the opportunity to compete and win in our core business. The changes we’re announcing today will put our customers first, allow us to move fast, and to get stuff done. The outcome of these changes will be a smaller, nimbler, more profitable Yahoo! better equipped to innovate as fast as our customers and our industry require.

Over the last 60 days, we’ve fundamentally re-thought every part of our business and we will continue to actively consider all options that allow Yahoo! to put maximum effort where we can succeed. As part of this process, I believe we have to focus to win in a select group of core businesses globally:

Core Media and Communications: Our content, media, and communications experiences must be best in class. That includes getting today’s core properties right and innovating on a next generation of great product experiences across all screens.∙

Platforms: We must make our core platforms and systems a genuine strength for Yahoo! — platforms that we can really leverage to support our massive scale, drive the deepest personalization, and boost speed to market.∙

Data: Our massive data sets must become a genuine competitive advantage for Yahoo!. We have to unlock the value in our data to allow us to really understand our 700 million users, encourage and win their engagement and trust, leverage everything they do with us to more fully personalize their experiences, and to give our advertisers the immediate insights they are rightfully demanding.

We are intensifying our efforts on our core businesses and redeploying resources to our most urgent priorities. Our goal is to get back to our core purpose — putting our users and advertisers first -– and we are moving aggressively to achieve that goal.

Unfortunately, reaching that goal requires the tough decision to eliminate jobs, which means losing colleagues and parting with friends. Today, we will begin the process of informing employees about these changes. As part of that effort, approximately 2,000 people will be notified of job elimination or a phased transition. We value our people and for those who will be leaving, we thank you for all you have contributed to Yahoo!. We will treat all of our people with dignity and respect, providing resources to help manage through their transition.

Change is never easy. But the time has come to move Yahoo! forward aggressively with increased focus and accountability. Our values have always been about treating all Yahoos with dignity and respect, and today is a day to embrace those values. This is an amazing company with exceptionally talented people and I know we will all do our best to encourage each other through this difficult period of transition.

Scott


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work