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Yahoo in turmoil as three senior executives expected to depart

September 30, 2010 |  1:03 pm

The only topic more hotly debated at this week's TechCrunch Disrupt conference than whether Google should buy Twitter was whether Yahoo should dump its chief executive Carol Bartz with 18 months left on her contract.

Bartz And that was before All Things D's Kara Swisher reported the bombshell that three senior executives were about to step down: Executive Vice President Hilary Schneider, who is responsible for its business partnerships and advertising sales in the U.S. and the Americas; David Ko, a senior vice president who oversees strategy for the company's media properties and its mobile device partnerships; and the company's vice president of media Jimmy Pitaro.

That Bartz's future should be debated in this venue was fitting. After all, the outspoken chief executive clashed with (and cursed at) the equally outspoken TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington in May at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York.

But the piling on in the tech world began last week after a ThinkEquity analyst concluded that Yahoo’s stock was worth "less than nothing" and Bartz's case for her company's value to Wall Street fell on deaf ears at Goldman Sach's Communacopia Conference in New York. PaidContent founder Rafat Ali called for Bartz's ouster on Twitter, which was retweeted by Atul Arora with a "+1" and then a "x10" by Hunch co-founder Chris Dixon.

The reaction is not altogether surprising. Bartz, who joined Yahoo in January 2009, is attempting a Herculean task: to turn around the struggling Internet company. It has been a long and painful slide for Yahoo from its enviable perch as one of the hottest properties of the dot-com boom. And some say Bartz, 62, has not yet done enough to slow that slide or to clearly articulate her turnaround strategy as the stock languishes, executives defect and employee morale craters.

Swisher predicts the Yahoo board will effectively oust Bartz by hiring a strong No. 2 to replace her at the end of her term. Or, more intriguing than that, Yahoo could buy AOL and install former Google executive Tim Armstrong as CEO.

Analysts who follow the company are not painting a grim scenario for Yahoo. The departures of such experienced executives would be  a "notable blow" but Yahoo still has "significant value" in its Asia investments and global franchises, Standard & Poor"s analyst Scott Kessler said. And Needham Co. analyst Mark May has come to Bartz's defense.

Stay tuned.

-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz

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