Brad Garlinghouse’s Suggestion For Saving Yahoo? Buy Flipboard And Gravity

Brad Garlinghouse, who just took over as CEO of YouSendIt and used to be a senior vice president at Yahoo several years ago, has a few ideas for the ailing web giant. The company’s got a pile of cash including $2.6 billion in cash and marketable securities from the end of last quarter, plus $6.3 billion more from selling the Alibaba stake over the weekend.

“Yahoo has billions and billions of dollars. Yahoo can do anything that they want,” he said, adding that he thinks the homepage alone is worth more than $1 billion in search and advertising revenue. Garlinghouse thinks the company should be aggressive about acquiring young companies to bring in entrepreneurial leadership. At the top of his list are Flipboard and Gravity. He is, by the way, the Yahoo executive that wrote that infamous “Peanut Butter” manifesto from six years ago.

“As a leader, [Flipboard CEO] Mike McCue would be transformative to the culture of Yahoo,” he said at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference in New York. Gravity would help with personalizing content, which Yahoo doesn’t do enough of with its homepage, even though it has a deep Facebook integration. In fact, Yahoo has poked around different news reader apps for acquisition targets. They had looked at Scribd’s reader app Float for between $2 and 8 million but walked away. But the ideas Garlinghouse is suggesting are more about acquiring leadership and talent instead of standalone products.

Garlinghouse adds that he doesn’t think Yahoo is totally doomed, unlike other naysayers out there. “I’ll be a contrarian,” he said. “In 1996, the cover of Businessweek was about the death of an American icon and at the center of that was Apple Computer. Apple is now the most valuable company in the world. Period.”

Also for a non-contrarian opinion, Garlinghouse says Yahoo’s board did the right thing in tossing former chief executive Scott Thompson over his resume (cough) inaccuracies. “The board had no choice.”

He also gave new interim CEO Ross Levinsohn some credit for getting the Alibaba deal done quickly. “He managed to do in one week what at least two or three CEOs weren’t able to do.”

Michael Arrington, who interviewed Garlinghouse, also pressed him on how YouSendIt’s file-sharing can compete with enterprise-focused upstarts like Dropbox and Garlinghouse said the valuations of both companies might hinder their progress forward. (He declined to reveal YouSendIt’s most recent valuation.)

“Raising a ton of money creates challenges,” he said. “You’ve got an employee problem because options are priced at a $4 billion valuation plus investors want a 2 or 3x return. How many companies can afford a $10 billion acquisition? You’re not going to pay $10 billion. You’re just going to build it yourself.”