Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo Plans Splashy New San Francisco Digs (And Dreams of Neon Billboard’s Return)

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Justin Sullivan, Getty Images News

According to multiple sources close to the situation, Yahoo is close to signing a lease for a splashy new San Francisco outpost to keep up with the fast growth of other Web companies that have opened high-profile offices here.

Yahoo’s Mayer apparently is hoping for a big PR announcement of the space in San Francisco, much as she did with the recent news that the company was opening new digs in Times Square in Manhattan, in the former offices of the New York Times.

Mayer apparently likes old media locations. While the company has been looking at a number of locations in an increasingly tight office real estate market in San Francisco, it has zeroed in on a large amount of space in the famed San Francisco Chronicle building at 5th and Mission Streets.

That is now the location of Square, the high-profile online payments company which did a handsome redo of its office there. It is expected to vacate and move to an even swankier new space nearby by the end of September.

It’s not clear if Yahoo has actually signed the lease there or how many floors it will take, but sources said that the deal is in advanced stages.

Yahoo, whose main headquarters are in Sunnyvale, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley, already has a large location in San Francisco that houses several hundred sales, engineering and other employees over three floors.

But it is located in a nondescript office tower in the duller financial district of the city and not in the more hip environs south of Market Street, which has seen a major renaissance over the last two years due to the opening of numerous Internet companies.

That’s where companies like Twitter, Airbnb, Square and also many Sand Hill Road venture firms have built dramatic and highly designed offices. In addition, companies with existing big Silicon Valley campuses, such as Google, have also located fast-forward spaces in San Francisco.

In fact, the search giant is apparently now dramatically expanding its footprint at its SF HQ in Morgan Stanley’s Hills Plaza building, which is right at the foot of the Bay Bridge on the city’s waterfront.

As does Google, so copies Yahoo these days — from free food to trendy offices.

In fact, sources said Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer — who was a longtime Google exec — has been eager to up the company’s attractiveness to younger entrepreneurs, which includes providing appropriate urban digs within a stone’s throw of twee coffee roasters and ironic donut purveyors.

There are, obviously, no molasses, Guinness-soaked pear donuts easily found in Sunnyvale.

Yahoo has tried to create some hipster cred in the big city before. In 2006, it founded an incubator space in San Francisco called Brickhouse, to foster fast-forward ideas. But it ended up shuttering it two years later due to cost-cutting.

The same expense-chopping was to blame for the end of the iconic Yahoo billboard on the eastbound lane of the Bay Bridge — a retro motel-style one with many quirky mottos, including, “A Nice Place to Stay in the Internet” — that the company gave up in 2011 after a decade. It has since been rented by Clear Channel to the Gap’s Old Navy.

According to sources, Yahoo’s marketing head has told employees that the company has been trying hard to reclaim its past glory, in neon lights at least.

I emailed Yahoo for comment, but horses will fly — it could happen! — before I expect any kind of substantive response from PR at the company.


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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