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Yahoo is still one of the largest consumer internet companies, and one of the most recognizable technology brands in the world. But it's also arguably one of the most troubled publicly-traded technology companies in the world.
In January 2009, the company hired Carol Bartz as CEO to change that. Bartz had previously led software maker Autodesk, and her successes there provided some hope to Yahoo and its shareholders that the company could be turned around.
Yahoo is retaining an executive search firm to find a replacement. In the meantime, Timothy Morse, who previously served as the company's CFO, will assume the helm.
Some investors cheered the news of Bartz's firing, sending Yahoo stock up more than 6% in after-hours trading. But despite the fact that investors believe Yahoo is better without Bartz than it was with her, the question remains: what happens to Yahoo now?
The answer isn't clear, but it's a stretch to believe that Yahoo's future is very bright if the comments made by Chairman Roy Bostock, mean anything:
The Board sees enormous growth opportunities on which Yahoo! can capitalize, and our primary objective is to leverage the Company's leadership and current business assets and platforms to execute against these opportunities.
We have talented teams and tremendous resources behind them and intend to return the Company to a path of robust growth and industry-leading innovation. We are committed to exploring and evaluating possibilities and opportunities that will put Yahoo! on a trajectory for growth and innovation and deliver value to shareholders.
Compare these comments to what Bartz herself said when she joined Yahoo:
Yahoo! is a powerful global brand with a great collection of assets, strong technology, and enormously talented employees. The Company has accomplished a great deal in its relatively short history and I look forward to working together to take it to the next level.
There is no denying that Yahoo! has faced enormous challenges over the last year, but I believe there is now an extraordinary opportunity to create value for our shareholders and new possibilities for our customers, partners and employees. We will seize that opportunity.
Yahoo has great assets and great people, and there are plenty of opportunities that can be exploited to deliver value to shareholders. That was the case in 2009, and apparently it's still the case today.
Now Bartz may not have been the most likable CEO, but it would be unfair to believe that Yahoo's inability to chart a new course in the past several years is simply the result of her failings as a leader.
More realistic is the possibility that Yahoo, as an organization, has run out of new ideas and inspiration. For all of its properties, technologies, traffic and people, the company is missing the extra ingredient, a coherent and executable vision if you will, that makes those things valuable and meaningful.
At this point, it's hard to imagine that there is a single executive out there looking for a job who is going to bring that ingredient to Yahoo.
As such, it would be unrealistic to expect Yahoo's next CEO to fare any better than his or her predecessor, raising the possibility that the next could be the last to lead the company, at least as we know it.