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Yahoo surprised the world by announcing that they have hired Google executive – and Google CEO Larry Page’s ex – Marissa Mayer, making her Yahoo’s 5th CEO in as many years. This move puts Mayer, 37, among the tech business female elite, with the likes of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this move is Mayer’s young age and lack of experience for such a big undertaking. Many speculate that Yahoo was deliberate in its strategy, due to her vast experience with consumer websites and ability to attract a younger demographic. Will it work this time?
Yahoo is still a go-to website for more than 700 million monthly visitors, but one of Mayer’s tasks will be getting visitors to stick around a bit longer when they visit, and to make those visits become ad revenue growth. Yahoo has been trying to gain financial traction for several years, and has gone through a slew of CEO’s in an effort to do so. After laying off 2,000 employees, Yahoo’s last CEO, Scott Thompson, resigned after only 4 months on the job, due to public questions that arose regarding academic discrepancies on his biography. Prior to that, in December of last year, the Yahoo Board of Directors fired then-CEO Carol Bartz, and then promptly put Yahoo up for sale. There is no doubt that Yahoo has been on a rocky road.
But is Mayer up to the task? There is no doubt that her impressive (and, unlike Thompson’s, legitimate) resume would suggest so. The twentieth Google employee ever, Mayer received her Master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University before joining Google in 1999. While with Google, Mayer is credited with launching over 100 unique products, including Google images, creating the simple design of the Google homepage and, most recently, managing their location-based products.
But many are saying that it is going to take a whole lot more than simply being successful in an already-thriving company to transform the flailing Yahoo. Renewing the company to have a competitive edge could take an almost-entrepreneurial type of strategy, effectively overhauling Yahoo and changing the game completely. So far, according to the Times, Mayer is reporting that some of her goals will be to take advantage of what is working for Yahoo, namely Yahoo email, Yahoo finance and Yahoo sports. But some are dubious that Mayer is up for such a big undertaking, such as Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney, who noted, “Arguably, Yahoo has been mismanaged for 5+ years, with plenty of blame to go around. The clearest evidence of mis-management is the lack of any Free Cash Flow growth for multiple years, despite the clear secular growth drivers of Internet advertising. What we are a bit worried about is that by selecting Ms. Mayer, Yahoo! is explicitly pursuing an aggressive and bold growth strategy, whereas we believe a value strategy might be more appropriate.”
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Either way, it appears to be a positive career move for Mayer, with there being little chance for her to rise to such a position at Google. Said CEO Page, who took the CEO position not long ago, of Mayer (whom he dated at one time), “Since arriving at Google just over 13 years ago as employee #20, Marissa has been a tireless champion of our users. She contributed to the development of our Search, Geo, and Local products as well as many other product areas. We will miss her talents at Google.”
We look forward to seeing what lays ahead for Yahoo. (Anybody want to bet that Google will try to aquire Yahoo within the next year?)