Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo's Decker Resigned With Class–Now Chairman Bostock Should Exit Stage Right Too

Perhaps it was no surprise, given that she wanted to be Yahoo CEO and did not get the job.

But it took a lot of guts for Yahoo President Sue Decker (pictured here) to resign immediately yesterday and without the usual polite waiting period that happens in most major corporate management shifts.

I am guessing Decker clearly knew that investor ire over her leadership and that of her boss, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, had made the duo radioactive. Yang had already said goodbye in November and now it was her turn.

It was an important move for Yahoo (YHOO), since questions of Decker’s continued presence would have definitely dragged down any excitement to be had about the announcement of new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz.

So, Decker–who has always been a clear-thinking analytical type more than a gut executive–made both the logical and emotional decision to leave the company she has worked at for nine years.

And, more importantly, to leave Bartz with the cleanest slate she possibly could.

Whatever you think of Decker’s leadership, it was a class move on her part and one that BoomTown admires, especially since it was probably very hard for such a rigorous person to walk away without leaving behind a success.

It would be nice, then, if the man who was also just as–if not much more–responsible for the disaster that has been Yahoo for too long would take a clue from Decker and Yang and head out too.

That would be Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock (pictured here), the leader who has largely escaped blame that has been massively heaped on both Yang and Decker.

But it was Bostock who was part of the supposed revival of Yahoo, who was a key player in the disastrous negotiations with Microsoft (MSFT) over its takeover attempt and who was has been pulling many of the key strings the entire time.

Thus, he needs to go too, because at this point, Yahoo has to declare that accountability matters and that it starts at the tippy-top.

Major investors certainly would not mind. “Everything he has promised has gone the other way,” said one about his encounters with Bostock. “I just don’t believe him anymore.”

Said a former Yahoo exec, echoing the sentiment of many I have talked to over the past weeks: “Jerry and Sue should be the ones to take responsibility for Yahoo’s decline, but Roy was right next to them all the way.”

So, while many could aim at Yang and Decker (or perhaps even former CEO Terry Semel) or the distraction of the Microsoft bid earlier in 2008 or now, the weakness in the economy for Yahoo’s woes, since he has been chairman, Bostock is just as responsible as anyone at at the top of Yahoo.

Yahoo shares have been cut in half since he took over as chairman a year ago, back to where they were when he joined the board in 2003.

You could also point to Yahoo’s morale crisis or the exodus of key talent or the declines in its key businesses or the company’s general lack of momentum as very solid reasons for kicking Bostock to the curb for taking so long to do anything about it.

BoomTown will not even bring up the $31 per share offer from Microsoft that Yahoo spurned, although Bostock never seems to tire of highhandedly laying all the blame for the mess at Microsoft’s feet alone.

While the departure of Bostock would probably be enough, I would say a lot of the longtime members of the board should also probably contemplate moving on, to make way for some fresh eyes on the board and to free Bartz to do what she wants without their meddling.

Given that several directors also wanted the CEO job, according to sources, the board will likely continue to be more bothersome than helpful.

While not the boldest pick by this largely ineffectual and slow-moving board, it has finally made a definitive move by picking Bartz and should now get well out of the way.

Because, unlike the Yahoo directors, Bartz cannot really be judged yet, and one must give her the benefit of the doubt and let her try to fix Yahoo in her own way.

She certainly has the experience as a seasoned tech veteran, from 14 years at Autodesk (ADSK), and she also has the goodwill of Silicon Valley.

Left to hire her own team and take advantage of the massive amount of talent that still miraculously exists at Yahoo, Bartz has every chance of reviving a company ripe with great assets.

That is, if Bostock–who led the search to hire her–would give her a truly great gift of the cleanest slate possible for Yahoo, by bidding her farewell and godspeed as he heads out the door.

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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