Kara Swisher

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Yahoo Hires Google Exec Barrett as Chief Of Revenue, as Big Ad Changes Loom

According to sources close to the situation, Yahoo has hired high-profile advertising exec Michael Barrett to be its chief of revenue.

Sources said Barrett will be in charge of ad revenue and operations worldwide, including units in the U.S., Europe and Asia reporting in to him. Barrett will report directly to interim CEO Ross Levinsohn when he starts in July.

(Update: Yahoo confirmed the hiring in a press release.)

The move to hire the experienced Barrett — who has been working at Google since it bought an ad tech company he ran a year ago — is a significant one, giving the company a boost in its most critical area of business.

It is also a clear signal that the Silicon Valley Internet giant is about to make major changes to its ad business going forward. According to numerous sources, Yahoo is again mulling a plan to abandon or sell its large parts of its ad tech business and rely on third-party vendors.

In fact, it has been in talks with Google about taking over its automated ad sales and ad network operations, while focusing instead on premium ad sales and sponsorships. Yahoo is also considering turning its entire search business over to Microsoft, with which it already has an ad partnership.

“Yahoo is going to be a media company again — in the digital ad sales business and not in the ad tech business,” said one person.

That impending change has already caused much debate within Yahoo already, with sides drawn between those who think Yahoo should not outsource its core ad technology and those who believe that the company lost the battle to others already — most especially Google — due to poor execution over the years.

While there have been a variety of multibillion-dollar plans drawn up by some to double down on Yahoo’s ad tech business, that effort has now been supplanted by a feeling that the company needs to quickly get out of businesses it cannot win in or see growth.

Barrett is one of the few obvious choices to usher in a new era, given his long experience in all aspects of both digital and traditional media.

He used to work with Levinsohn at Fox Interactive Media, but came to Google a year ago, when the search giant bought AdMeld for $400 million. Barrett was CEO of the supply-side advertising technology platform, which worked on behalf of publishers by trying to get the best prices for their inventory from a variety of ad networks.

Barrett has also worked in ad jobs at a range of companies, including AOL and Disney Online, as well as at Meredith Publishing and Newsweek. He even previously worked at Yahoo, when it bought GeoCities, back in the Web 1.0 era.

As part of the changes, sources said, current Americas sales head Rich Riley will be stepping down from the job he just got under ousted CEO Scott Thompson. He will remain at the company, but it is not clear in what position.


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