Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz’s penchant for shooting her mouth off saying colourful things is coming back to bite her.
In recent weeks, Carol has:
* Annoyed Apple by saying company’s control-freakness will doom its efforts in the ad business
* Annoyed Alibaba’s CEO Jack Ma with some public remarks about Yahoo’s Alibaba stake
* “Alarmed” execs at search-partner Microsoft, one of whom tells Kara Swisher that “It is becoming a little unsettling.”
When things are going well, a CEO can say just about anything he or she wants. (And, in fact, it’s refreshing, as it was in the early days of Carol’s reign).
When things are going badly, however, as they are at Yahoo, colourful remarks can create the impression that the CEO is a loose cannon or all hat and no cattle.
This is especially true when the CEO cannot stop a flood of executives from leaving the company or articulate what the company’s mission and strategy are.
Carol Bartz reportedly has 18 months remaining on her contract. If she can’t produce meaningful revenue growth or a compelling vision for Yahoo in the next quarter or two, it seems unlikely that she’ll last that long.
Kara Swisher’s sources speculate that the board will oust Carol by hiring a strong No. 2 who will take over when Carol’s contract is up. The way these things work in practice, however, is that the moment the successor is anointed, the CEO becomes a lame duck.
So although Yahoo’s board will likely try to save face by saying that Carol will finish her term, they will effectively be canning her the moment they hire her successor.
* A reader pointed out that it seems disrespectful and disloyal for me to write a post like this given that I work for Yahoo (as a host of the TechTicker finance show). This resonated with me, as it FEELS disrespectful and disloyal to write a post like this. I love a lot of what Carol has done, and I am rooting for Yahoo to succeed, as both an employee and (ouch) long-term shareholder. And I don’t enjoy writing stuff that hurts that effort.
At the same time, for the sake of our readers, I haven’t wanted to treat Yahoo any differently than we treat any other company. (We don’t make the secret access-for-positive-coverage deals that a lot of news organisations do, which leaves us free to say what we actually think. This is one reason our readers like to read us).
Given the awkwardness of my writing about Yahoo–when I have good things to say, it looks and feels like I’m just blowing smoke up my employer’s arse, and when I have bad things to say, it looks and feels disrespectful–I think it’s best if I just don’t write about Yahoo. So unless there’s breaking news that happens when I’m online and no one else is, I’m going to leave our Yahoo coverage to the rest of the team.