With Marissa Mayer’s appointment as Yahoo’s new CEO, a painful two-month period since disgraced CEO Scott Thompson left has drawn to a very welcome close. Though many believed that interim CEO Ross Levinsohn would eventually be handed the reins at the troubled internet media giant after Thompson’s resume scandal-fueled departure, Mayer’s appointment signals the opening of a new chapter with fresh leadership.
Many were surprised at Yahoo’s ability to lure Mayer, given its recent difficulties and loss of luster, as well as the formidable challenges she will face in trying to turn the once-strong company around.
She’s also a bit of an unexpected choice, in that Yahoo’s board — at least in its last two CEO choices of Carol Bartz and Scott Thompson — has gone outside the Internet media industry, and was said to be looking for someone with CEO experience. But the latest shareholder meeting saw the union of a new Yahoo board, in which 8 of 11 directors had been appointed since the previous annual event.
These new directors are surely hoping that Mayer issues in a long and prosperous new era at Yahoo. At Google, she proved successful at product development in search and has lately been delving into two big industry growth areas — local and mobile. This expertise, and her experience in working at an ad-supported company, will likely serve her well at Yahoo.
For Mayer, the move represents an opportunity to run the show in a way that seemed unlikely to occur at Google, given that the pesky co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin showed no sign of leaving. Though Yahoo’s star has seemed to be in decline, it is still one of the more powerful brands on the Internet, continuing to play a big role in consumers’ everyday experiences online.
Many had high hopes, too, for Scott Thompson, the former President of PayPal, who joined Yahoo only in January before leaving in May in a scandal over allegedly falsifying his resume. His appointment coincided with the resignation of co-founder Jerry Yang, who had once been CEO (and interim CEO) himself. CFO Tim Morse served for a while prior to Thompson, after Carol Bartz was removed in September of 2011.
When Bartz joined, in January of 2009, there was similar hope for a fresh start. She’d had CEO experience, at Autodesk, but no specific digital media credentials. Yahoo’s longest-serving CEOs have been Terry Semel, who served from 2001 to 2007, and Tim Koogle, who took over in 1995 and stayed until 2001.
One unanswered question now will be “What about Ross Levinsohn?” Many considered him to be well-qualified for the top job at Yahoo, and reports at AllThingsD indicate he’s being wooed by several other large media companies. If that’s the case, one of Mayer’s first duties may be finding a replacement.