Yahoo Seeks Decisive Leader
As Yahoo Inc.'s board searches for its next chief executive, directors are in many ways looking for the anti-Jerry.
For 17 months, co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang tried to turn around Yahoo with a simple management mantra: rally senior executives to put aside their differences and do what's best for the company.
But people inside and outside the Sunnyvale, Calif., firm say Mr. Yang's inability to make tough decisions on matters ranging from new products to strategic alliances stymied his effectiveness and failed to get Yahoo out of its hole.
On Tuesday, Yahoo's ailing stock soared more than 9% to close at $11.55 on the Nasdaq Stock Market, a day after the board announced Mr. Yang will surrender his post when a new CEO is found.
As they search for candidates, Yahoo directors are looking at Mr. Yang's track record for lessons about how to find a leader better equipped to navigate the Internet giant through continued tumultuous times.
'This company has shown a failure to execute,' says a person familiar with the situation. Yahoo's next CEO 'can't be just a thinker.'
The board wants to consider executives with strong operational skills who may be veterans of the high-tech and media worlds, rather than simply Internet industry types, this person says.
Another person close to the company cautioned Mr. Yang shouldn't be solely blamed for Yahoo's 'consensus-driven' and at times indecisive culture. But others note that Mr. Yang failed in his promise to break those habits.
Even as Wall Street exulted over Mr. Yang's decision to step down, the mood inside Yahoo, where morale has been low, was more muted. After learning of Mr. Yang's exit, Yahoo employees were hopeful that a new leader might turn the company around while still expressing affection for the co-founder, according to employees who declined to be named.
Yahoo senior vice presidents had discussed the news with Mr. Yang and other executives during a conference call late Monday evening, at which time Mr. Yang stressed that the transition had been in the works for a while, according to people familiar with the matter.
In many ways, Mr. Yang was better suited to building a young company than to steering a more-mature company in a crisis, say current and former employees. When Mr. Yang had the visionary's title of 'Chief Yahoo,' executives turned to him for insights about future trends. He drew fans as a beloved geek and cheerleader, hitting it off with engineers for his penchant for rattling off technical terms in casual conversation, current and former employees say.
Given Mr. Yang's passion for the company, employees were initially excited to see what change he could bring as CEO. Many decided to delay decisions to leave, waiting to see what he could do with the reins. But the mood changed quickly amid the perception that he began punting tough decisions -- such as whether Yahoo should sell its search business.
Mr. Yang's preference for letting employees reach consensus rather than make tough decisions himself sometimes backfired, creating bickering among employees without tangible results.
To prepare for a keynote presentation for the Consumer Electronics Show last year, he asked several senior Yahoo executives across different groups to brainstorm big company-wide projects to show off, according to four people familiar with the matter.
When executives asked for more guidance to help resolve their disputes, he told them to work together without much further detail, these people said. Mr. Yang eventually ended up showing off a number of products that the company still hasn't launched.
'The thing that Yahoo needs most is someone who can make decisions and who is comfortable with the risk of making fast decisions,' says one former executive.
'The mistakes he made were on the operational side by not reducing costs and increasing efficiency' fast enough, suggested Dona E. Roche-Tarry, a London-based technology recruiter for CTPartners, a U.S. search firm.
The board is also looking for a leader more engaged in discussions, say people familiar with the matter. While negotiating a long-simmering merger with Time Warner Inc.'s AOL deal, there was a perception among the board that Mr. Yang appeared reluctant to pull the trigger, according to people familiar with the situation, although there have been numerous other barriers to a deal, including price.
As early as August, Mr. Yang had been privately discussing his willingness to step aside when the timing was right. He began to discuss the idea with Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock more frequently in recent weeks, as Yahoo's stock price continued to plummet, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Bostock is leading an informal committee of directors in the search for a new chief executive, says one person familiar with the matter. Investor Carl Icahn, who was a vocal opponent of Mr. Yang's while waging a proxy fight he dropped in exchange for a seat on the Yahoo board, is not on the board search committee, according people familiar with the matter. Mr. Icahn could not be reached for comment.
The search is scheduled to conclude in the first quarter of next year. Yahoo's current president, Sue Decker, has raised her hand for the job, according to people familiar with the matter. But there are board and investor concerns that she is also partially to blame for Yahoo's current performance. Whether she will stay if she's passed over remains unclear.
Jessica E. Vascellaro and Joann S. Lublin
美国猎头公司CTPartners驻伦敦的科技行业招聘专员罗奇塔里(Dona E. Roche-Tarry)表示，杨致远在运营方面犯下的错误就是没有尽快削减成本并提高效率。
知情人士透露，雅虎董事会也想找一位更善于谈判的领导者。了解内情的人士称，在雅虎与时代华纳(Time Warner Inc.)旗下美国在线(AOL)开展如文火慢炖般的合并谈判时，雅虎董事会形成了一种印象，认为似乎是杨致远不愿意做出决定，尽管当时交易还存在价格等诸多其他障碍。
Jessica E. Vascellaro and Joann S. Lublin