Some 75 days after giving CEO Carol Bartz a vote of confidence, Yahoo’s board has announced a leadership reorganization under which Timothy Morse has been named interim Chief Executive Officer, replacing Carol Bartz, who has been removed by the board. The board has also announced a newly formed Executive Leadership Council tasked with supporting Morse in managing the Company’s day-to-day operations until a permanent chief executive is appointed.
Bartz’s dismissal is not a major shock to Yahoo watchers as her departure has been speculated for more than a year, but the timing of the action comes as a surprise. Yahoo has a major client event in mid-September and a change in leadership as the company enters a generally strong fourth quarter is curious. While not easily confirmed, reports add to the mystery around Bartz’s dismissal by saying it took place over the phone. Bartz had another 15 months left on her contract.
Neither the micro nor macro view of Yahoo’s performance since Bartz took over in January 2009 paint a pretty picture. The big picture shows that the Microsoft-Yahoo search alliance has not gone to either party’s satisfaction and that Yahoo has lost a number of key executives and was caught so short staffed is pointed to being undermanned as a reason for a disappointing Q2. Yahoo still calls itself a media-technology company but has a leader at the helm that had neither media nor web technology chops. At the micro level, Yahoo many of the company’s headline projects such as Connected TV and Livestand seem to be moving at a snail’s pace and its social media strategy is and has been a work in progress at best.
The conundrum for Yahoo in recent years has been its inability to develop an identity and sell that to employees, advertisers, partners and consumers. Yahoo has some great piece parts—messaging used by hundreds of millions of users worldwide; a sports brand that stands apart from other web properties and strong content plays in news and finance. Yahoo has yet to find a leader who has the vision to frame those pieces into cogent opportunity that would lead a transformation resulting in a 21st century media-technology power.
Morse is not likely to be more than a short-term solution. No successful media company in recent memory has been helmed by a finance guy. The company could look inward to EVP Ross Levinsohn former President of Fox Interactive or could begin the challenging search for a rare Steve Jobs-like leader who can spin the dials of the Yahoo Rubik’s Cube and revive this once-iconic brand.