Photo: Associated Press
After Yahoo announced it poached Scott Thompson from PayPal to become CEO, our snap reaction centered on the fact that he had zero media, content, or advertising experience.Considering the fact that Yahoo is basically a media company at this point, we thought it was strange to hire someone who knew nothing about the business. Sure, he’s in the tech business, but he’s not in the same sort of tech business as Yahoo.
This happened when Yahoo hired Carol Bartz. Sure, she was in the tech business through AutoDesk, but that’s not the same tech business as Yahoo.
After listening to Thompson talk about his plans for Yahoo, we thought to ourselves, “He’s Carol Bartz. Just without the cursing.”
But Yahoo shareholder Eric Jackson of Ironfire Capital tweeted a very important distinction between Thompson and Bartz that has nothing to do with the f-word: “I don’t know Thompson as a manager, but I know he had the most to lose leaving his PayPal perch to go to Yahoo. What did Bartz have to lose when she took the job, 3 yrs ago? Nothing. She was retired.”
Thompson was running PayPal, which is one of the more interesting companies in the Valley. It has a real opportunity to make a dent in the world through payments. And it is eventually going to swallow up eBay whole, giving him a shot at being CEO of eBay, a much less dysfunctional company.
Instead he threw all that out the window and jumped aboard Yahoo.
Thompson’s move to Yahoo reminds us of this Warren Buffett quote: “When a management team with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact.”
In other words, if he fails at Yahoo, he’s not exactly screwed, but his chances at running another company become much more slim. The pressure is on for Thompson in a way it never was for Bartz.