On July 16, 2012, Yahoo! issued an announcement that Marissa Mayer would take the helm as Yahoo!’s new CEO and president. In the short term, it is expected that her track record will attract new talent to the beleaguered company. Mayer, who earned a computer science degree from Stanford, joins Yahoo! after thirteen years at Google where she rose to the rank of vice president. However, there are many who view her move to Yahoo! with skepticism. As the fifth CEO to claim the title in the past year, many wonder what it might take for her to make a measurable difference.
Yahoo!’s chain of CEOs
Why has Yahoo! run through a series of CEOs over the past few years? The company just can’t seem to find its focus, and each change in CEO brings with it a change in strategy. Here is the rundown for the past few years:
- Jerry Yang, June 2007 to November 2008: During his 519 days as CEO, Yahoo!’s stock price plunged from a high of $28.12 to $11.55. Yang stressed ad management technology to manage online media transactions for publishers and advertisers. Yang was forced to resign in 2008 due to shareholder anger after he refused to sell the company to Microsoft.
- Carol Bartz, January 2009 to September 2011: Formerly of Autodesk software, Bartz was fired when Yahoo! failed to rally. Under Bartz’s leadership, the Yahoo! stock rose up to $12.91. Her strategy mainly focused on content creation resources and proprietary online magazines.
- Tim Morse, September 2011 to January 2012: He held the position until Scott Thompson could take over as CEO. Morse remained at Yahoo! as the chief financial officer.
- Scott Thompson, January 2012 to May 2012: Formerly of eBay’s PayPal, he left after it was discovered that his resume included mention of a nonexistent degree. True to his PayPal background, Thompson stressed ecommerce and shopping as Yahoo!’s identity.
- Ross Levinsohn, May 2012 to July 2012: Levinsohn served as interim CEO before passing the role over to the Mayer.
For the past six months, Yahoo! stock has been priced at around $15 per share. Will Mayer be able to pull Yahoo! from the doldrums and revitalize it to its glory days when it was valued at $28 per share? Many are skeptical, including Shar VanBoskirk. In her July 16, 2012 post for Forrester.com titled “Marissa Mayer Doesn’t Fit Yahoo!’s Needs,” she explains her concerns.
VanBoskirk believes Yahoo!’s problem is that it has too many products with no unifying strategy. “And, Mayer’s background is in product development, [...] not corporate strategy, not marketing, not brand definition: [...] the areas where Yahoo! has the most critical need,” VanBoskirk wrote. Her fear is that Mayer will take Yahoo! on yet another unprofitable tangent.
Who is Marissa Mayer?
Peter Delevett described Mayer’s path from Google to Yahoo! in his July 16, 2012 article for The Oakland Tribune titled “Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer move stuns Silicon Valley.” The 37 year-old Marissa Mayer’s long list of accomplishments include:
- Graduating from Stanford University in 1998 with a degree in computer science, specializing in artificial intelligence
- Becoming the 20th employee to join Google in 1998 as their very first female engineering the development of the homepage, Gmail and product search functions
- A net worth estimated at $300 million
- Serving on the boards for Wal-Mart, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the New York City Ballet
Yahoo!’s new strategy
Could it be possible that Yahoo! hopes to finally find equal footing with long time competitor Google by acquiring one of that company’s prized executives? Yahoo! certainly needs to find a way to maximize its assets such as email, finance and sports. Mayer has indicated that she wants to focus on those areas of Yahoo!’s services and put more attention on both video broadband and mobile services.
How will Mayer’s tenure as CEO affect Yahoo!? Ben Parr voiced his opinion about the short-term effects in his July 16, 2012 post for CNET.com titled “What hiring Marissa Mayer immediately does for Yahoo.” Parr believes that the photogenic Mayer will cause the media to take the heat off of Yahoo! and that her technical credentials will help her to attract quality talent to the company.
“Yahoo has struggled with its identity as a hybrid media/technology company for years. Terry Semel’s reign pushed Yahoo into the media realm, while Carol Bartz and Scott Thompson were indications that Yahoo wanted to go back to its technology roots. Choosing Mayer over Levinsohn makes it crystal clear that Yahoo intends to make products that compete with those from the heavy hitters,” Parr added.
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