Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made a big hire yesterday, bringing in her former Google colleague Henrique De Castro as COO.De Castro doesn’t come cheap. Mayer and Yahoo had to agree to pay him $62 million over four years to get him to leave Google, where De Castro was a loyal and well-paid lieutenant to Nikesh Arora, Google’s revenue boss.
De Castro’s job will be to fix Yahoo’s relationship with big ad agencies and other buyers of display advertising. Mayer selected him because she believes he is responsible for two major feats at Google: 1. building Google’s display advertising business from zero to billions of dollars in revenue, and 2. building brand advertising into YouTube.
So, is he worth the money?
Two ex-Googlers we spoke to gave us a mixed, but overall positive view of De Castro and his work at Google.
“I personally like him, but most others think he is too academic and a douche,” says this source. “He’s pretty effective at some things, and breaks down complex problems logically.”
Another told us:
He is a McKinsey guy so has a lot of that discipline behind him. He also is the protege of Nikesh Arora who is widely regarded at Google as being a great business executive (despite not being a popular executive).
I think Marissa gets in Henrique the discipline of the best of the best from McKinsey and how Nikesh approaches things.
People say De Castro is smart as a whip and knows how to structure and run businesses at scale. He gets things done.
My understanding is that he is not well-liked by people under him.
I do believe he was tasked with running the display business for the company and that it did well. But keep in mind at Google, the business owner does not also own product and eng. So it is matrixed leadership.
So on one hand he is responsible for those feats, but not completely responsible.
It helps that Google bought some great companies like DoubleClick and YouTube and has amazingly talented product and engineering leadership to create a moat.
Henrique was primarily tasked with monetizing that stuff and I think he is regarded to have done a great job doing that. Even his detractors admit he is effective, but note he has an off-putting style (which may be due to English is not his first language)
The rest of the people we spoke to, about a half-dozen veterans of Google’s ad business, were genuinely surprised Mayer hired De Castro into this role.
While all agreed that De Castro is “smart,” these ex-Googlers believe Mayer made a serious mistake hiring De Castro to be Yahoo’s front man on Madison Avenue.
In contrast to Mayer’s view – that De Castro built Google’s display advertising business and then saved YouTube – these sources view his tenure at Google as a very different narrative.
In their narrative, Henrique De Castro got a shot at a big job at Google and he blew it.
When Google ad sales boss Tim Armstrong left to become CEO of AOL in 2009, Google CEO Eric Schmidt sought an equally charming and presentable replacement. He settled on De Castro.
De Castro’s biggest move – and biggest mistake – was hiring Barry Salzman as the head of Google’s display advertising business. Salzman didn’t take, and he’s now out of the industry, working as a professional photographer.
And so, a little more than a year after moving him into Tim Armstrong’s job, Google moved De Castro into a new position: president of “Global Media, Mobile & Platforms.” One ex-Googler described this job’s responsibilities as “kind of miscellaneous.”
Photo: Screengrab Dos Equis
In this narrative, the reason De Castro did not do well as Google’s top display ad man was his “difficult personality.” They say he is “charming” but in a decidedly self-serving way.”He’s a very charming guy,” says another ex-Googler. “People say he’s an arsehole, and well yeah kind of. But a totally loveable arsehole. It’s hard to meet him and not be attracted to him in some way.”
This source says “Henrique wants to be The Most Interesting Man In The World from those Dos Equis commercials.”
“That accent. He works at it.”
Another source, a ex-senior Googler, summed up the view of others: “[Henrique] is very smart, but he has a difficult personality; both his teams and his clients dislike him.”
“He has no experience whatsoever running any kind of a real ad salesforce, let alone a 1,000+ team selling experiential media into brand buyers.”
“Google should pay Yahoo to take him.”
One ex-Googler told us that Mayer may have been smart to hire De Castro, but that she hired him for the wrong job.
“If he came in and didn’t have to talk to a client and hired just ex-McKinsey people and brought that kind of discipline, maybe that’s the structure Yahoo needs. Maybe they need help with the operations and streamlining.”
“But this is a company that needs to sell Madison Avenue on big branding ideas.”
For that job, says this source, the De Castro hire “is literally the worst ever.”
If you want to know what kind of guy De Castro is, a source says you should watch his interaction with Apple CEO Tim Cook during this All Things D video. It’s from the Q&A portion of Tim Cook’s appearance at the ATD conference earlier this year. De Castro asks a question at 1:34:30.
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