Like numerous times in the last decade, Yahoo finds itself looking for a direction that will utilize it’s strengths and establish a beach head ahead of the company’s competitors. Also like numerous times in the past, this effort to break out from the pack and taste the pre-2000 market dominance is being done under rumors of mergers and stock tender offers.
Recall that last week we discussed the firing of Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz after only a couple years at the helm. She was replaced by her Chief Financial Officer Tim Morse. Yahoo immediately made it clear that Morse was serving on an interim basis. This served to keep analysts guessing but applauding, as the general belief was the Bartz/Morse stewardship was not forward thinking. On the date of the announcement of the Bartz firing, Yahoo’s stock price shot up from $12.50 to 13.72 a share.
Now this past week, Yahoo saw it’s stock value jump again amid rumors of a another offer to buy from the outside. Microsoft, a suitor in the past, was again rumored to be interested. Microsoft has long desired a deeper stake in the search market to counter the dominance of Google. Plus internet companies generally covet the platform of Yahoo’s position as the leader in web-based mail users. There are many who have see the sale of Yahoo as matter of when, not if.
The question on the mind of many in the turbulent internet industry is what impact the Yahoo CEO search will have on the prospective sale. Andres Bylund writing for the technical news watch magazine artstechnica.com, pointed out that when prior overtures were made by Microsoft to buy Yahoo in the mid to late 2000’s, Yahoo was in an enviable position in terms of it’s internal talent base. The cost-cutting directives under Bartz may have stripped the company of a valuable but overlooked commodity on the sales market: people with ideas. The opinion is that unless the stockholders of Yahoo are in a cut and run mood, they likely will not be in love with the offers at this point. That could change (and dramatically) with the right infusion of talent at the CEO position.
Om Malik of GigOm stated that Yahoo needs a CEO “who cut his/her teeth on the consumer internet” and the moxy to abandon old products that no longer serve the company in favor of bold directions and new products. Kara Fisher of AllThingsDigital mentioned Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Hulu CEO James Kilar as potential candidates. It is increasingly clear that pulling together new leadership that makes an industry splash, will be a pre-requisite for maximizing Yahoo’s market potential, sale or no sale.