Monday, November 17, 2008

What Yahoo wants to be CEO?

The Chief Yahoo will no longer be Chief Executive. As announced in a memo to Yahoo employees and a public press release, Jerry Yang is stepping down as Yahoo CEO. Tomorrow’s WSJ article has the subhead “Co-Founder's Rebuff of Microsoft Haunted Tenure.”

Despite my criticism of Yang’s tenure, it’s not an easy job. Terry Semel didn’t do any better. But in 10 years, Yang will still be the Yahoo cofounder while Semel’s tenure will be a brief footnote in history. (Instead, Semel will be remembered for taking $25 million of shareholder money to endow a UCLA medical lab — or perhaps his wildchild who seems intent on proving Britney Spears normal.)

So who are they going to get to run it now? Eric Schmidt looks brilliant because he became Google CEO rather than stick around to be Sun CEO (another no-win hand.) Would Yahoo have done any better under Schmidt, without the Google money, market position, technology, and cofounders?

If the goal is just to stall until Microsoft buys them, that’s a plausible plan. Would they get even half of the $33/share they turned down six months ago? Seems pretty unlikely. So there’s $15b in Microsoft’s money that stays in Redmond rather than bailing out long-suffering YHOO shareholders.

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