With Thompson out, Yahoo appointed Ross Levinsohn as interim CEO and began the process of conducting a this-time-more-thorough CEO search.
According to AllThingsDigital’s Kara Swisher, that search is almost complete and her sources say that there are two final contenders: Levinsohn and current Hulu CEO Jason Kilar.
Swisher writes that her sources tell her the job is “is Levinsohn’s to lose,” but Kilar, who is reportedly planning to leave web video giant Hulu anyway now that his employment contract has expired, has the favor of at least some of Yahoo’s board members.
With Yahoo’s annual board meeting a week away, it would not be surprising to see a decision announced in the coming days. And regardless of who is selected, Yahoo’s future direction is all but certain. Here’s why.
Levinsohn’s early career included stints at Saatchi and Saatchi and CBS Sportsline. He later made his way to News Corp., working his way up to president at Fox Interactive Media, where he played an instrumental role in numerous acquisitions, including News Corp.’s purchase of MySpace.
Levinsohn’s competition for Yahoo’s CEO role, Kilar, may not have as much media/Hollywood cred as Levinsohn if you’re counting number of employers and years, but he’s certainly been at the center of the media world as Hulu’s chief. Hulu, of course, is a joint venture between some of the biggest names in media — ABC, NBC Universal and Levinsohn’s former employer, News Corp.
That means one thing: Yahoo’s direction under either Levinsohn or Kilar will almost certainly be ad and content-focused. But is that the right direction for the company?
If you look at Yahoo’s assets, the most valuable of which is arguably its still-impressive audience, and look at where the company has been over the past decade, the answer is probably yes, if only because a shift would be too tall a mountain to climb. But it’s hard not to suggest that content and ads might not be enough. After all, many believe that Yahoo’s decline began in earnest under the reign of Terry Semel, a former Hollywood exec who took this path.
Which begs the question: if content and ads haven’t been working for Yahoo all these years, why will they now? Answering that should be the first order of business for Levinsohn or Kilar.