Semel Says So Long – Yang’s Back

Well, the other shoe dropped. Terry Semel’s stepped down and Yahoo is dusting off co-founder Jerry Yang and bringing him back as CEO. Sue Decker steps in as President.

There’s a whiff of desperation here. I’ve often said that one of the reasons Google has excelled in search is the hands on involvement of Sergey Brin and Larry Page. They had an intimate interest in the Google user experience and made it a sacred cow at Google, closely watched by Marissa Mayer. The entire Google empire has been financing solely by the strength of that user experience, so don’t ever underestimate the power of it.

The Yahoo or MSN (Live..etc) user just never had as highly a placed champion (or champions). The fact that Jerry Yang and David Filo cashed in relatively early at Yahoo and watched from the sidelines allowed the search also-ran to drift and be run into the ground by bean counters and those who had dreams of an online media empire. The waffling back and forth came close to killing Yahoo, and may yet.

Sue Decker is a fiscally responsible executive (a.k.a. bean counter) and Jerry Yang, who still has a garage full of Yahoo stock, is probably a little worried about slipping down the Forbes list if the share price continues to erode. So he’s stepping back into the ring, full time.

Will this have much of an impact on the Google/Yahoo rivalry? No, I don’t think so. Jerry cashed in and eased back, where Sergey and Larry would have never dreamed of it. The motivations are different. And Sergey and Larry take an engineer’s proprietary interest into the nitty gritty minutiae of Google, where Yahoo was never really an engineering brain child. It was a collection of links, the manifestation of a online community. It embraced technology because it had too.

To me, this seems like it’s buying time, to keep share prices propped up until a deal can be inked, nothing more. The faces have changed, but the look of desperation remains the same.

Coincidentally, I was just in Toronto last week and talked on Bloomberg TV about the need for leadership and focus at Yahoo.

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