Kara Swisher

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Yahoo Brings In–Drum Roll, Please–a Former Microsoft Exec to Head U.S. Ad Sales

In what is both a surprising and not-so-surprising move, Yahoo has replaced its top U.S. ad sales exec with one from Microsoft.

The departure of Dave Karnstedt, who took over last year when longtime Yahoo ad sales exec Wenda Millard left Yahoo in the first of many controversial partings, has been long rumored internally.

(In fact, I have driven one of Yahoo’s PR people crazy in recent months trying to verify a persistent tip I had been getting that he was headed out the door.)

Karnstedt will be joining Redpoint Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture firm, as an executive-in-residence.

And, in a rejiggering and addition of duties at Yahoo (YHOO), Karnstedt’s job and more is going to Joanne Bradford (pictured here), a longtime and well-known Microsoft (MSFT) exec who decamped from the software giant to helm national ad sales at trendy ad services start-up Spot Runner just six months ago.

There have been rumors swirling that Bradford was unhappy at the smaller company after working at the giant Microsoft.

She was EVP of National Marketing Services, focused on national advertisers, for Spot Runner, joining in a high-profile move in March. Previous to Spot Runner, Bradford was a VP and chief media officer of MSN Media Network, and had worked at BusinessWeek before that.

In any case, the move will be seen as a blow to Spot Runner, which recently did some unusual layoffs, despite receiving a large slug of cash from investors.

(Here is a post and video I did on a recent trip to Spot Runner, including an interview with its CEO Nick Grouf.)

“I am going back to my entrepreneurial, build-something roots,” Bradford told me at the time she joined Spot Runner. “There is such inefficiency in buying and selling of advertising and someone has to solve that, both for big companies and small ones.”

Well, welcome to Yahoo, Joanne, which could use a little efficiency in its buying and selling of ad sales!

Seriously, Bradford will now will take over as SVP of U.S. revenue and market development at Yahoo at a very dicey time.

Besides facing a withering U.S. economy, a weakened stock price after the takeover attempt by Microsoft and ensuing mess related to it, it was revealed that the Justice Department might block the deal Yahoo recently struck to outsource some of its ad sales to Google (GOOG).

Yahoo said that in this newly created role Bradford will oversee sales, market development for advertisers, small business and HotJobs. She will report to Hilary Schneider, EVP of Yahoo’s U.S unit.

Karnstedt, whom I interviewed when he first took over ad sales a little more than a year ago, is leaving to pursue other opportunities.

In Silicon Valley, that means the inevitable stop at a VC firm. Hence, Redpoint!

Interestingly, he joins former Ask.com head Jim Lanzone at Redpoint, while former Yahoo execs Jeff Weiner (Accel Partners and Benchmark Capital) and David Goldberg (Benchmark) also landed cushy EIR gigs after leaving Yahoo.

Karnstedt had been SVP of U.S. sales at Yahoo and had apparently resigned from the company earlier this summer (thanks for not confirming that when I asked so many times, Yahoo!)

With Yahoo seven years, he was charged with the difficult task of integrating Yahoo’s search, display, Blue Lithium and Right Media sales teams.

And while Karnstedt was well liked, many complained that the longtime online ad techie was not enough of a gregarious and schmoozy ad sales exec, with deep relationships on Madison Avenue, as Millard–and Bradford–surely are.

As I wrote in Aug. 2007, after an interview with him at Yahoo’s New York offices:

I made the point to Dave (he is the kind of guy you can call Dave, as you can see pictured here) that an ad guy needs to sell himself, but to no avail, so we press on in text. Nonetheless, let me set the visual scene:

Nicest guy you ever want to meet walks into nondescript room, wearing khaki-oxford-jacket Internet uniform 101. Declares Yahoo is going to kick some advertising butt in the nicest possible way. It is revealed this nice guy has been around the Web block for quite a while. Much chitter-chatter ensues. Cut to my clear-as-Fiji-water observation that nice guy, as nice as he is, has his work cut out for him.”

And now, more than ever in Yahoo’s key ad market, so does Bradford.

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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