After a four-month search, Yahoo has finally filled the corner office. Its choice, former PayPal president Scott Thompson, brings a pedigree of senior executive roles in the financial and technology industries. Yahoo credits Thompson with doubling PayPal's active user base from 50 million to 104 million. Prior to that job, he held top management jobs with Visa subsidiary Inovant, Barclays Global Investors, and Coopers & Lybrand, each providing IT services to financial clients. That at first might seem an odd pedigree for a person running an online media giant - not to mention uncomfortably similar to his predecessor Carol Bartz's own tech, rather than media, industry background.
However, Yahoo's primary focus right now is its ongoing strategic review - which could result in a sale of the company in part or whole. What the company needs now, to its board's way of thinking, may not be a media veteran so much as a superintendent - someone who can quickly evaluate its sprawling products and kick them into shape to boost appeal to suitors and investors.
With his hiring, acting CEO Tim Morse - in charge on an interim basis since Bartz's abrupt firing in September - will resume his duties as chief financial officer.
Roy Bostock, chairman of Yahoo's board, hailed Thompson's "deep understanding of online businesses combined with his team building and operational capabilities."
During a conference call this morning, Thompson and Bostock played down the comprehensive review and said the primary focus was on Yahoo's core business and its users. Thompson told investors and press that his experience balancing the needs of PayPal's users with those of its merchants will serve him in the new job. "We need that at Yahoo - balancing value between consumer experience and the advertisers," he said. He also hinted Yahoo's data could be a key opportunity. "Data is a very hard concept to understand unless you're in the middle of it. There's tremendous value if you can organize and interrogate data at the scale Yahoo has."
Yahoo's revenue in the third quarter was $1.1 billion, a 5 percent decline from Q3 2010. Meanwhile net earnings totaled $396 million, a 26 percent year-over-year decline.
Ironically, Yahoo's business strategy during this chaotic period has appeared to regain some focus. Its ad network alliance with Microsoft and AOL aims to bring in new sources of advertiser demand, while its partnership with ABC strengthens its position in premium video. In another step intended to defend its premium ad sales, it restricted remnant sales on Right Media to buyers with a direct seat rather than resellers. Thompson will also take a seat on Yahoo's board.