Yahoo Names Ex-Google Exec Mayer CEO
Yahoo on Monday named high-profile Google executive Marissa Mayer as its new CEO as the company undertakes its latest effort to turn around its sagging advertising business. She replaces Ross Levinsohn, who has served as interim since May following the ouster of Scott Thompson over inaccuracies about his academic background.
In Mayer, 37, Yahoo has tapped one of the best-known executives in Silicon Valley and a 13-year veteran at longtime rival Google. Most recently, she served as the company’s vice president of local and maps, overseeing product management, engineering design and strategy for its geographical products such as Google Maps, Google Earth, Zagat and Street View.
During her tenure, she also curated the Google Doodle program -- one of the company’s most recognizable features -- which celebrates special dates and holidays on Google’s home page. Mayer is also credited with helping to develop Google’s flagship search offering and managing some of its most successful innovations including Google News, Gmail, and image book and product search.
“I am honored and delighted to lead Yahoo!, one of the Internet's premier destinations for more than 700 million users. I look forward to working with the Company's dedicated employees to bring innovative products, content, and personalized experiences to users and advertisers all around the world,” said Mayer in a statement.
She will be the fifth Yahoo chief executive in five years, tasked with reviving the Web portal’s ad revenue growth and figuring out how to better monetize its audience of more than 700 million monthly users. Google long ago eclipsed Yahoo in search, and both Google and Facebook in recent years have eaten into the company’s core display ad business.
Yahoo’s internal woes have not helped its repeated efforts to reverse its fortunes. Thompson, hired in January, lasted less than five months at Yahoo after it was discovered he had never earned the computer science degree listed on his resume. Yahoo media head Levinsohn, who succeeded Thompson on an interim basis two months ago, was expected to get the top job.
A veteran media and advertising executive, Levinsohn won praise for completing the long-delayed sale of Yahoo’s stake in China-based Alibaba Group, bringing in $7.1 billion for the company. He also negotiated a settlement with Facebook over a patent lawsuit that had been brought under Thompson, sparking widespread criticism of Yahoo for trying to compete through litigation rather than innovation.
As a Stanford-trained engineer, Mayer might not be viewed by all as the right fit for a media-centric enterprise like Yahoo. She told The New York Times on Monday that she’s intent on leveraging the Internet giant’s core properties email, finance and sports. She said she also hopes to expand its video broadband and its mobile businesses.
Adam Kasper, EVP, partnerships and investments at Havas Digital, said he was surprised at Yahoo’s CEO pick. "I’m sure Marissa is great and will do well there, but I think she’ll have a lot of (Levinsohn) supporters to win over in the short term,” he said. “He had a lot of internal managers and staff pulling for him, so this could present a challenge initially."
Starting in the new post Tuesday, one of Mayer’s first jobs could be sitting in on Yahoo’s analyst conference call after the company reports second-quarter earnings. Yahoo saw revenue increase 1% in the first quarter from a year ago, marking the first gain since the third quarter of 2008. It also laid off about 2,000 employees ad undertook a major internal reorganization aimed at streamlining decision-making.
In addition to becoming CEO, Mayer was also appointed to Yahoo’s board. "The Board of Directors unanimously agreed that Marissa's unparalleled track record in technology, design, and product execution makes her the right leader for Yahoo at this time of enormous opportunity," said Yahoo board chairman Fred Amoroso in a statement.