Home Terry Semel Out at Yahoo!

Terry Semel Out at Yahoo!

Yahoo! announced today that Terry Semel, who has been the company’s CEO since May of 2001, will step down. Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang will replace him. Semel will become non-executive Chairman of the company and an adviser to the board, who also named Susan Decker, former EVP of the Advertiser and Publisher Group, as the company’s president. Looks like Valleywag will have to update their chart of Yahoo! executive turnover.

In a press release, Semel said the board and he had long discussed the need for “a smooth succession in Yahoo!’s senior leadership,” and that more recently it was clear that he was not the right person to lead Yahoo! through its current reorganization. “This is the time for new executive leadership, with different skills and strengths, to step in and drive the company to realize its full potential — it is the right thing to do, and the right time is now,” he said.

In a post at Yodel Anecdotal, Yang heaped praises on both Decker and Semel before outlining a new vision for Yahoo!:

What is that vision? A Yahoo! that executes with speed, clarity and discipline. A Yahoo! that increases its focus on differentiating its products and investing in creativity and innovation. A Yahoo! that better monetizes its audience. A Yahoo! whose great talent is galvanized to address its challenges. And a Yahoo! that is better focused on what’s important to its users, customers, and employees.

We have incredible assets. This company has massive potential, drive, determination and skills, and we won’t be satisfied until the external perception of Yahoo! accurately reflects that reality.

While I’m not sure that Yahoo! should be talking about having “potential” (shouldn’t a 12 year old company have realized some potential by now?), I think this move probably makes sense. It is one that pundits have been predicting for awhile (at least Semel out, I’m not so sure about the predictions for Yang stepping in — I have heard Sue Decker’s name mentioned a lot, though). Semel is looked at by some as a man who helmed Yahoo! through some colossal blunders, from failing to buy Google, to slipping way behind in the search and ad markets, to failing to close the deal for Facebook. The news of his stepping down as CEO was well received by Wall Street (YHOO was up nearly 3% today).

Yang is right when he says that Yahoo! has incredible assets (he’s right that the company has a ton of potential, too, I’m just not keen on the language). They still control some of the most popular properties on the Internet (and collectively Yahoo! is the most trafficked network of websites), and have made some important Web 2.0 acquisitions (Flickr, del.icio.us, Jumpcut, among others) that were relatively cheap but have a huge potential return.

What do you think of today’s news? Is this a good move for Yahoo!?

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