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Yahoo’s Interim CEO: ‘We Are Not In Limbo’; Yahoo’s Board: Well, Sort Of

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With all the attention on Groupon, HP (NYSE: HPQ), AOL (NYSE: AOL) and Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), it might have been a good idea for Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) to lie low. Instead, the company’s board and interim CEO decided Friday was a good day for a couple of rounds of virtual Kum-ba-yah — setting off a flurry of reports as people tried to figure out what it all meant.

It’s simple: instead of careening from CEO to CEO like a certain other SV company, Yahoo’s board has hired Allen & Co. “to develop ideas that we will pursue proactively” and field “inquiries from multiple parties that have already expressed interest in a number of potential options.” In some cultures, this is called sucking and blowing at the same time. Put another way, it’s a process in search of a strategy — one that Chairman Roy Bostock and cofounders Jerry Yang and David Filo admit will take months, not weeks. At the same time, they insist the search for a new CEO is underway. CEO of what? What’s left?

Meanwhile, interim CEO Tim Morse has to convince the staff it’s the big purple engine that can even though no one has a clue where the train is headed.

Probably the most striking aspect of Morse’s e-mail is it never mentions the executive leadership council formed to help him run Yahoo while the board goes through the corporate version of a midlife crisis: EVPs Michael Callahan, Blake Irving and Ross Levinsohn; and SVPs Rich Riley and Rose Tsou. Instead, he talks of the “CEO Staff” — the people who report to Morse, which includes that group and several others.

As for content, “speed, accountability, purpose” sounds more like an employee manual or the core of a case study than an energetic rallying cry.

Both memos are below.

Dear Yahoos:

In our recent all hands meeting, we talked about the Board’s strategic review to help return the Company to a path of robust growth and industry-leading innovation. While our teams are working to evaluate the many opportunities by which Yahoo! can continue building on our success, all kinds of people have been – and will continue – speculating in the media about where that work is headed, so we thought it best to provide you with some additional context directly from those of us who are closest to it. We don’t have specific news to share with you today, but we are committed to communicating with you directly from time to time – especially given the level of external swirl – so that you know where we are in the process. You can expect periodic updates from us and we encourage you to communicate with us as well.

At the heart of what we are doing is our belief that Yahoo!’s core strengths are not only relevant to where users are going today, but can serve as a foundation for the next phase of our company’s growth. Consider our strengths: we have 680 million users worldwide. We have nine of the #1 properties in the U.S., and we are a leader in display advertising. Our brand is iconic – we are not the only ones who bleed purple. By whatever measure you want to use – engagement, quality of products and services, our value to our advertisers – we all feel that we have what it takes to succeed. Also, our Asia assets remain one of our top priorities and we continue to work well with the teams there. As you may have seen, Alibaba Group has just announced a liquidity event for its employees that reflects a continued appreciation in its value, and therefore of the value of our stake.

What Yahoo! needs to do better – and we’ve talked about this – is accelerate innovation, reignite inspiration, and give our users what they want now – great content that is engaging and easy-to-use on any device and provides an experience in which they can participate and contribute. Perhaps most importantly, we need to anticipate what they will want next. That is the path to enhancing the value of Yahoo! for all of its stakeholders, including its users, customers, shareholders, partners and Yahoos everywhere. Our strategic review is designed to help us map out the best way to achieve that.

At this point, we cannot offer many specifics about the Board’s review; we’ve just gotten started. You should know that the entire Board and management team are fully aligned and unanimous in their views regarding the scope of this work. Allen & Company was a logical choice to help us in this review, because they have been one of our advisers for some time, and this is familiar territory for them. Achieving success in our sector is intrinsic to what they do for a living, and they will be constructive partners.

Our advisers are working with us to develop ideas that we will pursue proactively. At the same time, they are fielding inquiries from multiple parties that have already expressed interest in a number of potential options. We will take the time we need to select and structure the best approach for the company, its shareholders and employees.

In addition, as we announced previously, the Board has commenced a search for a permanent Chief Executive Officer. That process also continues.

When we have updates that we can share we will do so. There will be plenty of rumors and speculation as different parties try to advance their agendas in the media – but it is important that we not be distracted by the rumors and speculation.

You are instrumental to the success of our business – we can’t do it without you. While we will move with a sense of urgency, this process will take time. Months, not weeks. We know that’s a lot of potential distraction, but we believe it will be worth the wait. We are forging a path to a next phase of growth for Yahoo! that feels like our best days: fun, full of possibility, and always in search of how to deliver the new thing people want from us. Together, we can write the next great chapter in the Yahoo! story and secure our place as one of those rarities: an internet company that endures.

Jerry Roy David

From: Tim Morse
Subject: The road ahead


I’m sure by now you’ve all seen the note from Jerry, David and Roy. I want you to know that while the Board works through all of our options, CEO Staff and I have been charged to move the company forward.

That means we will not be sitting still over the next few months. We are actively making decisions and taking action.

In fact, for three days this week, CEO staff and I met to do just that. Our planning for 2012 is well underway, and we continue to execute on our current plans – such as our Social Chrome announcement this week. (I want to make sure to give a big shout out to the team behind it; it’s getting some great press.)

You see, the Board is confident we can execute our current game plan in the short term. We’ve done some truly great work on updating the foundation of Yahoo! (like LEGO), and we’ve got some good things in the immediate pipeline. So, the Board’s focus is where it should be – on our long-term outlook, and how we best position ourselves to be successful in 3-5 years.

We need a flexible, visionary plan. That’s why the Board is actively looking at all the options available to put Yahoo! on a strong trajectory.

That being said, while the Board makes this decision, it does not mean we are in limbo. We have to keep Yahoo! moving ahead. And to do that, there are three things I need Yahoos everywhere to focus on:

1. Speed: Emphasize quick execution and decision-making

2. Accountability: Do what you say you’re going to do – and take ownership for time to market, monetization, user engagement, quality, or whatever metric defines success for your team

3. Purpose: Rally behind our mission and purpose: creating deeply personal digital experiences.

In the meantime, we will keep you updated as much as we can. And we will earn your trust – we know we have to.

Have a good weekend.


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