The unsuspecting Bartz was given her walking papers via phone call by a board of directors that had finally grown tired of Yahoo!’s lack of forward movement. We’re surprised that the board didn’t just wait for her contract to expire, which was in less than a year. We also would have thought her ouster would have come on the heels of Yahoo! second quarter earnings, which showed U.S. display sales taking a dive due to “unforeseen” turnover after a major sales overhaul.
Although Yahoo! lost its spot on top of the online display ad heap to both Facebook and Google before the earnings came out, display was one of Yahoo!’s remaining bright spots, especially as search revenue is still dwindling following the Microsoft deal. The display sales screwup pointed to management being out of control.
Granted, the blunt-tongued — she actually told Mike Arrington to “f*** off” on stage, in contrast to Arianna Huffington who did the equivalent in private — former AutoDesk CEO was dealt a losing hand from the beginning, trying to sort out the bloated beached whale Yahoo had become under former CEO and cofounder Jerry Yang.
Most of her two years was seemed to be spent trimming down the Y! beast, slashing initiatives both liked and disliked — few all that popular, and none of them relating to Yahoo!’s push to simply become a media-focused online portal. There were still glimmers of innovation during her tenure, notably on the front-end of the search offering, but the Search Direct solution still seems like it hasn’t been rolled out to the masses.
We were placing our bets on former Fox Interactive exec Ross Levinsohn, who joined Yahoo! as executive vice president of the Americas in October 2010 following the abrupt departure of Hilary Schneider, as Bartz’s most likely replacement. A few months ago, Yahoo! acquired supply side platform 5to1, which was reportedly light on the technology but featured a bench full of Levinsohn’s former Fox Interactive team. Then Yahoo! seemed to be showing him off to the media following an AdAge interview.
But Mike Shields over at DigiDay makes a good point — since Yahoo! has long been redefining itself as an online media company, the next CEO should be a New Yorker, someone from the media or agency business.
Bartz did one part of her job well, which was trimming the bloat that had accumulated under Yang, but she couldn’t do much more than keep Yahoo! afloat. The former champion of the Internet seas is not a sinking ship, but one stuck in dry dock, waiting on repairs as other luxury lines speed off to undiscovered waters. The bigger fear should be that it rusts too much while being fixed to go back to sea.