Today we are witness to what seems like a routine changing of the guard at Yahoo!. This may be a regular occurrence for observers of the Sunnyvale, CA company that has changed chief executives seven times in the past seven years, but with Marissa Mayer taking the helm, things are going to be a bit more interesting.
The erstwhile Vice President for Local, Maps and Location Services at Google has been lauded as being responsible for -- or intimately involved in -- many of the mainstay web services popular today, including the user interface of the main search product, Gmail and Google News, among others. She is employee number 20 at Google, having joined the Mountain View company in 1999 as its first female engineer.
Focus on Products and User Experience
Mayer's appointment as Yahoo President and CEO will come with big changes for Yahoo!, which has been considered an ailing company for a seeming lack of inspiration in its products and services. This might be just what Yahoo! needs to revitalize itself as a brand and as a company amid tough competition from the likes of Google and Facebook. The Yahoo! board has reportedly selected Mayer due to her roots in product engineering.
Marissa Mayer at a TechCrunch event in 2008. (Photo credit: Flickr / TechCrunch50-2008)
Yahoo's board has been making a push for a product-oriented executive. Nine of the 12-member board are newcomers, including activist investor Dan Loeb, who believes focusing on product and execution can help make the company more relevant to Internet users today. A source with direct knowledge of the board's CEO search says Mayer "stands for the user," and has actually been in Yahoo!'s sights in its CEO hunt for some time now.
Mayer comes from a computer engineering background, which some consider to be a stark contrast to interim CEO Ross Levinsohn, whom she will be replacing. Levinsohn, who has a background in media and sales, has initiated a new corporate strategy, which has put the ad sales at the forefront of its revitalization efforts. Gartner analyst Allen Weiner has pointed out that it will be important for Mayer to convince her predecessor to stay on with the company, as some Yahoo! managers have expressed worry that yet another reorganization might lead to an exodus of talent.
However, J.P. Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth says Mayer might be "able to attract more high quality engineering talent to Yahoo." The new CEO is expected to bring in new people in an effort to reshape the company's management team and thrust.
Mayer has made it clear that "advertising will continue to be the main revenue source," although she hopes to "inject some innovation and some new ways of advertising" into Yahoo!'s business model.
Best for Users, Best for Yahoo!
Former colleagues at Google are all praises for Mayer, and have sent words of encouragement. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt says Yahoo has made a great choice with Mayer, describing her as "a great product person, very innovative and a real perfectionist who always wants the best for users."
Google CEO Larry Page has said Mayer "has been a tireless champion of [Google] users," and that the company "will miss her talents."
Yahoo! will report Q2 2012 earnings this afternoon, although Mayer intends to skip the ensuing conference call to discuss the results with analysts to help formulate plans for the company. The 37-year old mother-to-be has cancelled vacation plans for the next month and has expressed excitement over the new job. "For me work is fun, and fun is work," she said. "I am very excited about the big challenges here, and I can't wait to work on them. It's going to be very, very energizing."
Yahoo! has lost focus in the past years, with a rapidly revolving door of CEOs, massive layoffs and a decline in brand value. It will be an uphill battle, but will Yahoo! finally get its much-deserved turn-around with Marissa Mayer at the helm?