NYTimes Article Reverberates Through Yahoo; Who's Their Next CEO?

When blogs and regional newspapers trash Jerry Yang it’s one thing. But when the New York Times does it, people really notice. Public lynchings like this are few and far between from that bastion of traditional journalism.

Yesterday’s article by Joe Nocera, titled “Oh Jerry, It’s No Longer Your Baby” was a stinging condemnation of Yang. It’s presented as a memo from Nocera to Yang, with the subject “Shafting Yahoo’s Shareholders” and outlines the many ways Yang has failed Yahoo’s shareholders and employees.

In reference to the recently announced Google search deal, the article says “You’ve chosen to become a pawn of the most dominant company on the Internet. How exactly is that going to lead to a brighter future for Yahoo?”

Nocera also condemns Yang for purposefully killing the Microsoft negotiations even thought the deal was in the best interests of shareholders, watching as key employees walked out, and generally running with his emotions rather than taking care of business.

The article ends with “Jerry, you’re a billionaire because people all over the world bought your stock, and trusted you to do right by them..It doesn’t matter that you would like Yahoo to remain independent, or that you can’t stand Microsoft. Your feelings aren’t supposed to get in the way of your fiduciary duty…A takeover by Microsoft was your last, best hope of rewarding your long-suffering shareholders. Now that opportunity is gone…I would be taking odds that your days as Yahoo’s C.E.O. are numbered. It’ll be better for everyone to have someone in that role who understands who he’s supposed to be working for. Wouldn’t you agree?”

From what we hear from multiple sources close to Yahoo, this article may be the final straw – whether the board backs Yang or not, this is just too much negative press for the company to overcome. A fresh start is now a necessity for moving forward.

Yang will step down, our sources say. It may be next week or it may be next month, but it’s going to happen.

Who Will Be Yahoo’s Next CEO?

But who in the world would take the job given the state of Yahoo today? It would have to be someone there already, no outsider would want the job. Right? Well, maybe not.

President Sue Decker is considered to be too close to Yang, and lacking in operational experience. Other Yahoo execs are also unlikely candidates.

But the names of two ex-Yahoo’ers are being tossed around as people who may consider the job, and who may be able to fire up the troops enough to give Yahoo a fighting chance. Those people are Jeff Mallet, Yahoo’s former President. And Dan Rosensweig, Yahoo’s former COO.

Jeff Mallett

Jeff Mallett joined Yahoo as employee number 13 back in 1995, when the company was still privately held. He was there for seven years as President and COO. In the early days of Yahoo, Yang called himself, Mallett and former CEO Tim Koogle the “Three Amigos.”

Mallet moved on to other projects after he left Yahoo. He’s one of the owners of the San Francisco Giants, makes angel investments and was most recently the Chairman of SNOCAP, which sold to Imeem in February 2008.

Old time employees remember Mallett’s days as the golden age of Yahoo – at one time the company was worth $100 billion under his tenure.

Dan Rosensweig

Dan Rosensweig is another former Yahoo exec – he was COO until he left the company in December 2006. His departure was rumored to be largely driven by a power struggle with Decker, which he lost.

Rosensweig is now an Operating Principal at Quadrangle Group, a $6 billion private equity firm. My guess is that he’d strongly consider taking the job if offered – he’d relish the chance to show that he should have won that power struggle back in 2006.

Tim Koogle, Yahoo’s CEO before Terry Semel took over in 2001, would likely be another candidate to consider. But he’s long retired, and now (literally) sells high end real estate in Mexico with his wife. He may once have been part of the Three Amigos with Yang and Mallet, but don’t look to him to come and save Yahoo.