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Yahoo Reaction: Among Ad Execs, Bartz Stirs Mostly Doubts, Some Hopes

imageFor many advertising and media executives, the name Carol Bartz has been a vague mystery up until her name surfaced as the lead candidate to succeed Jerry Yang as Yahoo’s CEO less than a week ago. Quick bio: Bartz ran B2B tech company Autodesk for 14 years, stepping down in April 2006 as chairman, president and CEO. She also held executive posts at Sun Microsystems and 3M Corp.

Leadership and consensus: Rob Norman, GroupM CEO: Autodesk is a really good business. Bartz is really well-qualified. She knows how to build teams. In a way, not hiring someone who’s a kind of celebrity internet executive or salesperson lowers the burden and the expectation on the person and the company. I’ve no idea whether that means looking at a sale. It’s not that she’s famous for being an organizer of sales. Hopefully, they’ll hire an advertiser who understands how important big advertisers and agencies are to Yahoo’s business.”

A serviceable leader: Curt Viebranz, the former head of AOL’s Platform-A (NYSE: TWX), says Bartz was selected because of her background as “seasoned, public company” exec, which is all Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) appeared to be looking for. “They have also chosen an individual whose interests can be easily aligned with shareholders. If she engineers a sale or merger, she can pocket the cash from what must be an attractive package. After all, she is 60 years old and has not had a true full-time job for some time.”

Now cue the deals: With Yang moved to the sidelines, Bartz’ hire “clears the way for the AOL deal in the fairly near-term,” Viebranz suspects. “(Time Warner Chairman/CEO Jeff) Bewkes could not possibly have agreed to a merger with Yahoo where TWX ended up with a substantial equity position in the surviving entity until a Yahoo CEO was chosen. What would he tell shareholders about putting $5 million to $8 billion in value in the hands of a headless organization? Also, Yahoo will be the survivor in the AOL deal. Something will give here soon.” More after the jump.

Puzzled: An executive for a major website publisher considers the Bartz appointment “puzzling,” adding, “it signals to all of us that Yahoo doesn’t know what kind of kind of company it is and wants to be. Autodesk is a B2B software company. She’s not a media person. That’s important. A large portion of Yahoo’s revenue comes from ads. If they chose Bartz because they couldn’t get one of the roster of internet industry all-stars like (former AOL CEO/Velocity Partners’ Jonathan) Miller or (*News Corp* COO/President Peter) Chernin, well, then that’s just pathetic… Anyway, with Sue Decker out, I’m curious about what will happen with (Yahoo EVP) Hilary Schneider.”

What does Yahoo stand for?: Picking up on whether Bartz can find “Yahoo’s core,” David Cohen, Universal-McCann’s director of digital communications, has some confidence: “Bartz is a consensus-builder and has the ability to build bridges between different factions, which is a legacy issue at Yahoo. There are a lot of big bureaucratic fiefdoms there and hopefully, she can try to make them work more seamlessly. As for her top priorities, Bartz has to address the significant talent drain. She also has to make Yahoo synonymous with something. Is Yahoo an original content powerhouse? Or is it about data and analytics? Or do they want to be a major search player?”

On Decker’s departure: UM’s Cohen: “There’s a lot to be said for fresh perspectives, and so this is a positive. People often become personally attached to things created under their tenure and it’s difficult to implement the kinds of changes that come with a new regime.” Norman: “I think she brought tremendous integrity to Yahoo and it must be difficult for her.”

2 Responses to “Yahoo Reaction: Among Ad Execs, Bartz Stirs Mostly Doubts, Some Hopes”

  1. Doubts/hopes among ad executives? Maybe this is the best recommendation for Bartz and the future of Yahoo — which is NOT and must NOT be another advertising company, second or third to Google and the rest of the online "ad-pushers"

    If I may suggest something ;-), the best for Yahoo would be to focus now on contet, premium content, in particular, leaving the rest (that is, the cesspool of misinformation and user-generated blah-blah) to Google to profit from it.

    Primum content plus micropayments, built based on the huge and loyal group of Yahoo users, could make Yahoo the numebr one Internet destination and a real healthy business again.