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November 18, 2008

After Yang Steps Down, What Are Yahoo’s Next Steps?

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Yesterday, Jerry Yang, CEO of Yahoo, announced that he would be stepping down from his position to return to the role of chief Yahoo. In a letter to employees, Yang said:

last june, i accepted the board’s request that i assume the ceo role to restructure and reposition the company as a whole in order to more effectively meet the fast-changing needs of both users and partners. since taking on the ceo role, i have had an ongoing dialogue with the board about succession timing. thanks in large measure to your tireless efforts, we have created a more open, competitive yahoo! and we believe the time is now right to transition to a new ceo who can take the company to the next level.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure your stock holders agreed that the time for change had come. Actually, I know so. TechCrunch reported that Yahoo’s stock (YHOO) went up 12 percent — or $1.83 BILLION! — the morning after the announcement. So yeah, I guess more than a few people thought it was about time.

There’s been a good amount of speculation over who will be courted as Yang’s successor, but the question remains. Is Yahoo looking for someone whose specialty lies in technology or in media? Or even entertainment — although, the last time they tried that, things weren’t any better for Yahoo than they are today.

Like most people, I’m inclined to think that Yang’s decision was in the best interest of Yahoo — a company that has struggled to find market share under the shadow of a behemoth.

When Yang first stepped up to the position of CEO, there already was muttering that the role might be a temporary one. In the postscript of this story from when Yang was first announced as Yahoo’s CEO nearly 18 months ago, Danny Sullivan points out that Yang was looking at the position from a long-term perspective and that Yang’s intense passion was (and is) one of the best assets he offers the company. Now with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, it appears that that passion may have also been his undoing.

It’s undeniable that passion among executives and low-level staffers alike is vital to the health of an organization. It’s that passion that makes Yang the best possible chief Yahoo and brand evangelist around, and it’s that passion that drove Yang to found the company to begin with. When it comes to business decisions, however, sometimes the best are made with a level-headed objectivity most often found far from emotional impulses.

Of course you don’t want a limp fish running the show, but the successful CEO is able to tap into and out of his or her emotional well as the circumstance demands. (Please don’t go locate the closest zombie to run your company. That’s not what I’m suggesting.) Likewise, the best candidate will have a solid background in both the tech and media industries — a position that will enable him or her to navigate the company back to the position of number one Google threat. It’s a long road, but with the right captain, the journey will be worth it.

Good luck finding your new CEO, Yahoo. We’re all rooting for ya.





3 responses to “After Yang Steps Down, What Are Yahoo’s Next Steps?”

  1. Matt Thomas writes:

    I couldn’t agree more. There are many decisions that have to be made with a clear mind, and Yang’s passion for the company probably clouds the thought process. Best of luck to Yahoo! The more competition for the giant, the better.

  2. Nick Stamoulis writes:

    There comes a time for every powerhouse company to take a look and make some changes. It was just that time for Yahoo.

  3. David - Los Angeles Internet Marketing writes:

    …and I thought I was the only one who realized that Yang wasn’t supposed to be there permanently. It really is a shame to see a company with so many assets, and so much value, not being able to be just amazing at what they do…

    I hope whoever it is that comes in will be able to overcome the vision (and less talent) challenges that Yahoo still faces.



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