Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Mayer to Unveil New Company “Goals” at All-Hands Today — But Could Talent Focus Signal the Start of Acquisitions?

It appears that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer could be back on the job today, after the birth of her first child 11 days ago.

In an internal memo from Mayer — which was signed “See you Thursday” — she has called for two “Goals All Hands” meetings this morning and this afternoon.

The specific focus of the staff gathering — which was alluded to at a previous “Strategy All Hands” — will be on “rolling out a new system and process for goals for the company,” the memo reads, in part.

“Moving forward, we will have both annual goals and quarterly goals that we will all commit to, track, and grade ourselves based on. The Thursday meetings will roll out the first set of goals at the company level,” said Mayer in the memo. “We will then cascade the goals down through the company at the department, team, and individual level — more information on the process will be provided on this at the meeting.”

While it implies that Mayer will be in attendance, its deployment appears to be the first big initiative of newly hired exec Jackie Reses, who is the EVP of people and development.

The unusual part of the appointment — aside from the fact that Reses has almost zero profile in the tech space — is that Mayer made her “responsible for leading human resources and talent acquisition as well as corporate and business development globally,” according to Yahoo’s press release when Reses was hired in early September.

That’s right, HR and M&A, in what sources said is an attempt to completely remake the top-tier talent at Yahoo by flushing of a lot of current execs, the hiring of new ones and, of course, via acquisitions. (The move has confused and irritated some current development execs at Yahoo.)

In its press release touting her cred, Yahoo had stressed Reses’s long tenure at Apax Partners as a media investor and company fixer and builder, where she was most focused on making a big score with higher-education textbook publisher, Cengage Learning.

That investment was not a home run, said many familiar with it, but Reses was considered a hard worker with a lot of savvy in the space by those who know her.

“Jackie had a reputation in New York for being a super smart and creative private-equity investor, which included ensuring the right executives in the right roles at companies where her firm made investments, said Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, Press+ co-founder and angel investor. “She was also one of a small handful of women in the leveraged buyout part of private equity, which shows she has the grit and perseverance that always comes in handy.”

Noted Crovitz, in an email in which he gamely tried to introduce me to Reses: “For entertainment at her 40th birthday, she had entertainers who walked on nails, which may have been a business metaphor.”

(That’s funny! I would have asked Reses about this charming anecdote, but she did not respond to the Crovitz intro or my other efforts to contact her, presumably due to strict orders from on high at Yahoo demanding a basic-information lockdown.)

But here’s an interesting factoid I found out anyway: Reses actually did not come to Yahoo directly from Apax, having left the firm in 2011, numerous sources said, after differences over future strategic direction and investments.

After a short period of not working — apparently, a noncompete was in effect — Reses had started raising a new fund, called D Cubed Group, as one of three managing directors. Her focus was again on education, according to a D Cubed Web site (it has now been deleted, but I kept a copy that you can click on to read better).

Inexplicably, Yahoo did not mention D Cubed at all in its press release, nor did it stress Reses’s more pronounced education focus.

Lack of Internet experience will not slow down the former New Yorker — Reses has moved her three kids and husband here for the Yahoo job — said Apax founder Alan Patricof, who hired her a decade ago, when he ran it.

“Jackie is not part of the Internet scene, but she is great communicator who will be an initiator of corporate development,” he said. “She is not your typical wiseguy from the East Coast who knows everything, and she is a very fast learner.”

Thus, sources said, Reses has been doing a lot of getting-to-know-you meetings with Silicon Valley players, as well as helping Mayer with her first acquisitions.

Those are in process, and could be announced soon, along with some new hires.

Most likely, one will be in the consumer space, and small — probably some sort of splashy mobile start-up. The other could be in the advertising tech space — Mayer’s team has eyed companies such as Criteo, Mediaocean and Turn.

But my money would be on PubMatic, if there is an acquisition. The Silicon Valley company would be a solid add to Yahoo’s ad platform offerings, especially if it wants to stay competitive with Google. PubMatic helps publishers effectively manage their display ad inventory, and competes with Google’s Admeld. It got $45 million in funding in June.


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle