Levinsohn Unlikely to Stay at Yahoo, as Mayer Begins Her Talent Search
According to sources both inside and outside of Yahoo, outgoing interim CEO Ross Levinsohn — who lost the race for the company’s top job to Google exec Marissa Mayer — is unlikely to remain at the company.
The board, who unanimously bypassed the media-focused exec to select a candidate with deeper product experience and a much higher tech profile, has apparently hoped that Levinsohn might stay in the company and return back to running its media and sales arm.
But that fat-chance possibility seems remote, according to people close to the board, who said they expect that Levinsohn will only remain for a short amount of time before moving on to another job.
Last week, in fact, I reported that Levinsohn was considering several exit options, after the Yahoo board declined to name him — as some had expected — at its annual meeting, and was still considering other candidates.
Levinsohn was named interim CEO earlier this year, in the wake of the ousting of Scott Thompson over the appearance of a fake computer science degree on his bio.
Also in question are the members of the team he has put into place at Yahoo, and whether they will remain. The most prominent is Levinsohn’s recent hiring of well-regarded advertising exec Michael Barrett — who came to Yahoo from, yes, Google — to run sales.
According to sources, Mayer is already aiming to attract several former and current Googlers to Yahoo to help her turn around the troubled Silicon Valley company.
Among the names raised is longtime former Googler Ben Ling, who worked closely with Mayer, as well as current Google exec Henrique De Castro, who is president of global media, mobile and platforms there. De Castro has been previously targeted by Yahoo to run global sales.
Mayer is likely to aim at grabbing some top product execs rather than on a big PR hire. In fact, some close to Mayer said that she could minimize her profile in the new role, which would be in stark contrast to her prominent efforts to establish a large public media presence while at Google.
One person close to the situation said she might take a page from new Google CEO Larry Page, who has been initially quiet as he drastically reformed the search giant.
“Marissa likes to be in the press, but she knows she has to manage expectations at Yahoo from the start and cannot over-promise anything,” said one person familiar with her thinking. “While she is well-known, she has never been in such a big job or in such a spotlight.”
No, indeed, a spotlight that starts tomorrow, when Yahoo announces what are likely to be meh second-quarter earnings, and when the world presumably meets the latest of Yahoo’s CEOs.
Mayer will be Yahoo’s fourth top leader in the last 12 months, so it would be nice if she stays for a while.
“So, is Marissa the ‘unicorn’ CEO?,” joked one person, about my description of the Yahoo search as a magical quest for leadership perfection.
We’ll see. Unicorns don’t exist, of course, and Mayer is now living in the real world, where Yahoo will need more than magic to return to its former glory.