In hindsight, we are all geniuses or simpletons — it’s just a matter of how much time we give history to ferment. At this point, it doesn’t look like history will be kind to Jerry Yang, who has had the unenviable job of rescuing the company he co-founded. A man of lesser moral fiber would have kicked the search giant on its duff, and that’s after giving it a thorough shake to wake it up from its stupor of mediocrity.
Instead he has chosen to reign over what has become a listless battleship without ammunition. Yang is a conscientious person, but he might be deluding himself. Some of his soul-searching about the roads not taken bubbled up during a conversation with John Battelle at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco today.
Among them was why he didn’t accept the $33-a-share acquisition offer from Microsoft. “A lot of people have replayed that in their minds,” was his reply. “I’m no exception.”
He went on to insist that Yahoo was ready to negotiate, but that Microsoft withdrew. “At the right price, we were willing to sell the company,” he said, even though we all know he didn’t really want to sell to the Redmond giant. But he insisted it was their call. “We believe that they walked away.”
There is a sense of tragic self-delusion emanating from the comments of this nice man. Perhaps that explains his faith in the now scuttled Google-Yahoo advertising deal. “We’re disappointed with that,” he said when asked about it by Battelle. “It was certainly very defendable. I really thought that the government in this case does not understand our industry. They have a market definition that I think is too narrow.”
When Battelle asked why he was the right guy for Yahoo, Yang said, “I wanted to make the change at Yahoo I believe I can make. Six months into it we had the events with Microsoft and now we have this economy. I don’t regret any minute of what happened even though it’s not the most fun thing. It’s a part of me.”
Maybe he should have regrets. Yahoo has been on a downward spiral, with a declining stock price, plummeting morale in its troops and so far, no clear stratagem for digging out of its listlessness. Yahoo’s next likely move – buying AOL – will be like trying to fix a cut in the carotid with a Band-Aid.
With reporting from Liz Gannes.
Image courtesy of Yahoo.