Kara Swisher

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The Yahoo Management Structure: Who Is In and Who Is Out?


On Friday, BoomTown first reported that new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz is likely to be announcing a sweeping new management structure soon, which can only mean the possibility that some existing top execs are likely to be broomed out, even as some new ones are ushered in.

“This is going to be a full-scale peanut butter recall,” joked one exec, referring to the infamous “Peanut Butter Manifesto,” which was sent around the company several years ago by former exec Brad Garlinghouse. It laid bare the problems at Yahoo (YHOO), most especially a decided lack of decision-making and lugubrious levels of managers.

But the reorganization of Yahoo’s top-heavy management structures–I once dubbed it the “attack of the Yahoo vice presidents”–will be a bit sticky, given all the (slow-)moving parts at Yahoo (YHOO).

Nonetheless, Bartz signaled a “big week” ahead in one internal memo I obtained, which was sent out Friday.

So what’s to come?

Here’s a rough primer, based on talking to numerous sources inside and outside of Yahoo:

The Basics:

In order to start to revive Yahoo, Bartz is likely to impose a more top-down management style on the hopelessly confusing “matrix” organization now in place at the company.

She has spent the last six weeks touring Yahoo, getting to see a lot of presentations on its many, many products and conducting a whirlwind of meetings with execs.

Broadly, most expect Bartz to severely roll back a variety of previous reorganizations done by former CEO Jerry Yang and outgoing President Sue Decker, in order to impose more centralized control over the place and focus it more narrowly.

Presumably, lattes–paid for by Yang and co-founder David Filo–will remain free.

Out With the Old:

There’s no question that Yahoo is going to see the departure of several top execs, along with the elevation of others.

Aristotle Balogh

Among those who are more likely to be definitely in, though, is CTO Ari Balogh (pictured here), a relatively recent hire who has been a popular exec within Yahoo.

The Wall Street Journal first noted the possible rise of Balogh in a follow-up piece to this column’s story on the overall reorg over the weekend, noting that he would become head of product.

Presumably, Balogh will be one of the point men on what to do about search, in the should-I-stay-or-should-I-sell-now debate that never seems to end at Yahoo.

One interesting idea floating around Yahoo is that he becomes head of all its products, as well as continuing to run its tech arm.

That’s a good idea, since Yahoo has desperately needed an empowered leader under Bartz, who focuses like a laser beam on products.

“It all starts with that,” said one former exec. “One single person has to be the champion of what Yahoo makes.”

But what does that mean for Ash Patel, EVP of Yahoo’s Audience Product Division? Well, the longtime Yahoo veteran could now report to Balogh (he had previously reported to Decker directly) or, presumably, leave.

Patel’s fate, of course, impacts that of many others, such as Front Doors head Tapan Bhat, who is in charge of a major homepage redesign that Bartz just delayed the launch of to make it better.

Venkat Panchapakesan, EVP of the Audience Technology Group, seems safer, given that he reports to Balogh already and is responsible for the company’s overall product technology and platform strategy, such as its open efforts.

Also safer than not is General Counsel Michael Callahan, as well as U.S. EVP Hilary Schneider.

But Schneider’s purview might change a bit if U.S. advertising sales head Joanne Bradford–who now reports to her–is elevated to a higher position or if sales is taken out from under Schneider.

It’s not a stretch to imagine Bartz wanting more control of the part of Yahoo that brings in the bucks.

The fate of Connected Life Division EVP Marco Boerries is dicier–think Yahoo mobile and other devices–as it is for CFO Blake Jorgensen and David Windley, who heads human resources.

Both Jorgensen and Windley were favored by Decker, which does not necessarily make them goners. But both are in jobs on which Bartz will have to rely much more, so she might want her own choices in place.


Boerries (pictured here), a talented but more freewheeling exec under Yang, is another question all together. Already wealthy from selling several companies, the entrepreneurial exec is most often mentioned by sources as someone unlikely to stick around, especially if Bartz tries to rein him in more. (In addition, Boerries has family issues requiring that he spend a lot of time in his native Germany.)

As to the many Yahoo SVPs and VPs? Let’s just say it is likely there will be many fewer of them, as Bartz cuts, consolidates, simplifies and centralizes divisions more.

In With the New:

One hire that is definitely coming is a new chief of marketing to take over Yahoo’s brand, as well as its PR function. Yahoo has not had that kind of powerful exec in a long time, and it is more likely Bartz will go for an outside star here.


One outside name skittering around Yahoo for the role is John Vail (pictured here), director of interactive marketing for Pepsi-Cola North America, who knows Yahoo well.

(An obvious internal candidate for the job would be Yahoo’s Global Brand Marketing SVP, Allen Olivo, who could hit the road if not selected.)

Also a possibility is adding a COO with more Web experience to come in to help Bartz. There are plenty of candidates for that job all over the Internet sector.

But Bartz seems to be the kind of exec who favors flying solo and having key execs report to her to keep a finger on the pulse of a company. She is most definitely not going to have an entourage around her.

In fact, said one person familiar with the situation: “It’s long past time for new plumbing, and [Bartz] seems ready to flush a lot out that has long needed to go.”

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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