Bring Me the Head of Jerry Yang

In 1974, Sam Peckinpah directed the film Bring Me the head of Alfredo Garcia, the story of a bounty hunter who set out to avenge family dishonor (through rape and abandonment) by bringing back the aforementioned anatomical appendage.

If I were part of the Yahoo! family of shareholders, I’d be having similar thoughts about Jerry Yang. This just in..Yang wants to go back to the table with Steve Ballmer to open up the deal. Of course this time, the price will be a fraction of what was originally offered.

Yang isn’t stupid. This is hubris disguised as stupidity, which is worse. Hubris deludes the holder into thinking they know more than they do. It’s pride that overcomes rationality, clouds judgement and obscures reality. Effective leaders should know better, they should be able to see through hubris, especially when acting on behalf of shareholders. Yang failed miserably. He has, through hubris, crushed Yahoo! beyond repair. Semel started the decline through his arrogance, Yang simply took it in a new direction. When humble self evaluation was desperately needed, Yahoo! got bravado and blind delusion.

This isn’t new for Yahoo! Those goes back to the very cultural foundations of the company. In their glory days, they had a cockiness that makes Google seem positively Uriah Heep-ish (the Copperfield character that was “ever so humble”). But at some point during the past decade, you would have thought that Yang and company would have realized that they were a rapidly fading second place player and would have made the necessary adjustments. Not so. Yahoo! has been suffereing from a massive and chronic case of denial.

Here’s the thing. If Microhoo happens (can’t see how it won’t at this point) it’s still going to be a disaster for search. I’ll reserve judgement on the Display side of things, but I tend to agree with some opinions saying that Microsoft should get out of the media business. Yahoo deal or not, Microsoft doesn’t have the culture to build a successful media business. But let’s just talk about search. If Yahoo! is cocky, Microsoft is ten times so. Microsoft just doesn’t know how to play catch up. This, as I said when people started talking about the original Microhoo deal, is two dysfunctional families joining together. It will distract Microsoft from what they need to do, which is become truly innovative and disruptive in redefining search. They’ll think they bought breathing room. They’re wrong. Yahoo’s search business is obsolete and bleeding market share quickly. And the enormous task of integrating two cultures under the given circumstances will sink both ships. There can be no good that comes from this.

Which is sad. At this point, the only hope for search is Google and some amazing start up somewhere. The mighty haven’t fallen yet, but their shoelaces are tied together in what is essentially a sprint, so it’s only a matter of time.

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