Yahoo has a shot at powerful future with new CEO

Posted by Rob Enderle

Company co-founder Larry Page wasn't exactly one of the most qualified Mountain View executives to take over Google when Eric Schmidt stepped down as CEO.

Rather, the most qualified executive was arguably Marissa Mayer, who was just appointed CEO of Yahoo. Indeed, Mayer didn’t have the shares needed to vote herself the job at Google and likely found it difficult (until now) to clinch a CEO position in America's male dominated tech industry.

 

This creates a unique situation where the most qualified person to run Google has just taken over Yahoo, which should make things very interesting for both industry heavyweights.

Why? Well, the smart employees at Mountain View (and Google prides itself at hiring intelligent workers) might suddenly realize that a better future might be tied to a more capable CEO - along with riding a company (Yahoo) up, rather the sliding down with an existing firm (Google).

Of course Google is a very stable company with strong financials, while Yahoo is still pretty much a train wreck at the moment. Even an experienced turn around manager, and I am one, would look at Yahoo with a great deal of trepidation because it is in bad enough shape to be a career ender. Nevertheles, as bad as things are at Yahoo, it is still in better shape than Apple when the very talented Steve Jobs took over Cupertino. This suggests Yahoo could be turned around with the right person at the helm - even if it won't be easy.

Turning Yahoo

As Marissa correctly pointed out, Yahoo’s sustaining assets are likely its brand and some of its content sites (Yahoo Finance is particularly strong, for example). But watching Team AOL-HuffPo has essentially been like observing an exercise in futility - and one that is simply delaying the inevitable failure of the property.

Yahoo has become even more of a content aggregator over time and that really doesn’t seem to be a good path to profit. Now to put it simply (and I don’t mean to imply this is simple at all), AOL can’t execute, and given Yahoo’s own struggles, it is more likely that there just isn’t enough value in this particular market approach to generate sufficient cash to support a large company.  

Clearly, this means Yahoo will need to find another path. Fortunately, Marissa was a deep insider at Google, so for a time she’ll be current on Google’s market analysis and will have access to Yahoo’s as well. This may give her enough data to anticipate what the next big thing will be after Facebook, allowing her to define and help create it. It is probably worth noting that Facebook is already starting to crumble as its platform strategy fades and small social focused companies targeting specific groups, such as Ombud or interests like Pininterest, move to whittle away its formidable market share.  

At one time, Yahoo Groups was the location to set up interest groups which are still in use by organizations like the esoteric Lifeboat Foundation as a way to foster extensive collaboration amongst its members. So there is likely plenty of infrastructure in place, waiting to take Yahoo in a number of critical directions which could theoretically restore the property to its former glory.  

Wrapping Up:  Oh My!

Marissa is a far more seasoned executive than Jobs was back in the 1980s, while Yahoo isn’t in nearly as much trouble as Packard Bell was (eventually). So clearly, this isn’t exactly an Apple to Apple comparison. That being said, the odds for Marissa are actually better than they would have been for Jobs in a similar situation and likely showcase what might have happened had Jobs made some different choices.
Indeed, maybe today we’d be talking about the Packard Bell iPad and not trying to rack our brains trying to remember what the heck the corporation was during its glory days.   

In short, the individual who should be running Google is actually helming Yahoo. So win, lose or draw, I’m personally expecting something epic out of this matchup.