I keep imaginging a 2001 Help Wanted Ad that goes something like this: “Most popular and promising internet company looking for a new CEO to come and re-direct the company into a giant shithole. Compensation includes a permanent suite at the Fairmont and $500 million.”
That’s basically the role Terry Semel stepped into at Yahoo. Now, a few years later, Yahoo is a company without much promise, very little direction and is about to be absorbed by Redmond into a depressing and ignominious end.
The mistakes in direction (no, you’re not Hollywood North, you’re a web company so you need your top executives to know what stuff like RSS is), and missed opportunities (you bought Flickr, the top photo sharing site, and then sat on your hands while some upstart took over video sharing), and failure to score any social networking related wins (20 million MyYahoo users ought to have a few friends, no?) are too many to count.
What is truly amazing here is that Semel drove the company to this point, made about a half a billion in the process and then stepped down as Chairman one day before the Microsoft bid (which will result in at least a year of unimaginable merger headaches if the deal happens). The company went to shit and Semel rode off into the sunset (amazingly, via a street named after him) before the shit hit the fan.
Business is weird sometimes, eh? Maybe being friends with a Scientologist really works?