Marissa Mayer, the no. 20 executive at Google and VP for search products, has been named Yahoo’s new CEO. She replaces Scott Thompson, who was forced out in May after it was found that he had padded his resumé; Yahoo’s interim CEO, Ross Levinsohn, had been considered the top candidate for the position.
A Surprise Hiring For Yahoo
Yahoo’s hiring Mayer is consider a “big coup” for the company, which has floundered in the face of competition from Google and Facebook and more often than not made the news for less than flattering reasons, including its recently settled patent lawsuit against Facebook. Mayer joins Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, IBM CEO Virginia Rometty and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in what is indeed an elite club of women in positions of power in tech companies.
As the #1 at Yahoo, the 37-year-old Mayer becomes “one of the most prominent women in Silicon Valley and corporate America,” says the New York Times’ Dealbook blog. Mayer was named to the board of Walmart in April, becoming one of four women on its 16-person board.
Mayer, Google’s first female engineer who first worked as a computer programmer for the company, has been behind some of Google’s signature products, its famous white search page, Gmail, Google News and Google Images. A member of Google’s operating committee, she has been “part of a small circle of senior executives who had the ear of Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin” and also one of Google’s “most visible and powerful executives, often tapped for keynotes at technology conferences and glamorous magazine spreads” (she was named Glamour’s woman of the year in 2009). But after Page was promoted to CEO in 2011, Mayer was “left out of a new group of senior-most managers.”
As of Monday afternoon, Mayer had resigned from Google; on Tuesday she starts at Yahoo, which she described as one “of the best brands on the Internet” in an interview. She will also become a member of Yahoo’s board.
What’s Ahead For Yahoo, and Mayer?
Mayer’s plans in her position include building on strong Yahoo franchises including email, finance and sports; she also mentioned expanding Yahoo’s video broadband and its mobile businesses. Her focus at Yahoo will be on “creating a really great user experiences.”
There is no question that Mayer faces numerous obstacles in her new position. The late 1990s was the last time that the company’s star shone in Silicon Valley. According to ComScore Inc. (via Bloomberg), users spent less than two hours, 15 minutes on average on Yahoo pages in March, vs. more than six hours on Facebook’s. Yahoo is one of the largest properties on the web, but has had at least seven permanent and interim chief executives since 1995; its shares have fallen 41 percent over the last 5 years. After years of declining profit, Yahoo’s revenue rose 1 percent in the first quarter.
Yahoo’s shares rose up to $16.62 after the announcement of Mayer’s hiring and fell less than one percent to close at $15.65.
Just an hour after Mayer’s appointment was announced, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen proclaimed her hiring “great for the valley” at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen but refrained from saying what directions he thought Yahoo ought to pursue. The question everyone from Herman Leung on Bloomberg to Erin Gloria Ryan on Jezebel is asking is, can Mayer help Yahoo return to its former glory?
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Photo by Adam Tinworth