Yahoo’s drawn-out search for a CEO has taken an unexpected turn with the company tapping Marissa Mayer, Google’s first female engineer and the head of its location and local services, as its new chief Yahoo. Mayer, who used to lead Google’s search team, is now set to take over Yahoo starting tomorrow, according to a report in the New York Times.
Mayer was a surprise choice for Yahoo, which had been looking at elevating interim CEO Ross Levinsohn. Yahoo confirmed the report in a press release, quoting Mayer as saying:
“I am honored and delighted to lead Yahoo, one of the internet’s premier destinations for more than 700 million users. I look forward to working with the company’s dedicated employees to bring innovative products, content, and personalized experiences to users and advertisers all around the world.”
The search process for Yahoo’s third CEO in a year started in mid-May when Scott Thompson was ousted over a resume scandal, new board members rotated in early and media head Ross Levinsohn was appointed interim CEO. Instead of a caretaker, the idea was to have an active interim leader who could resolve some of Yahoo’s outstanding issues while the formal search for CEO took place. Thanks to Levinsohn, Mayer starts her new job with an expanded deal with Facebook instead of a nasty patent dispute. She also inherits a clearer picture with Alibaba and a major cash infusion instead of a snarly mess.
Levinsohn was thought to be the frontrunner, especially after the board gave him the flexibility to make his own org chart and hire senior execs. Other names were tossed in a couple of weeks ago, Hulu CEO Jason Kilar chief among them. Kilar sent word through Hulu PR that he had “graciously declined” to be considered. That was framed as a choice between media chops and product. Levinsohn was left waiting. On the one hand, the longer he waited, the less likely it looked. On the other, he met with dissatisfied shareholders at the annual meeting Thursday as the face of the company. We expected to hear him on Tuesday afternoon’s second quarter earnings call, still as interim.
This move, too, will be framed as media versus product with product winning.