About 350 of the tech elite assembled in Aspen, Colo., this afternoon for Fortune’s Brainstorm conference. All of a sudden, everyone was checking their smartphones. The news broke that Marissa Mayer is leaving Google to become the new CEO of Yahoo.
People were calling out to each other, asking if they’d heard the news. The general reaction: shock.
Most had no idea that Mayer was in the running. It had looked like Ross Levinsohn had the job sewn up after Hulu CEO Jason Kilar walked away.
One attendee who had casually known Mayer when he had worked at Microsoft. “Where’s the loyalty?” he wondered.
He said that a number of times in his career he had been offered jobs for direct competitors, but after earning a lot of money, he couldn’t bring himself to do it, nor could the people on his team.
In all fairness, in 2011, Mayer’s move to a new position at Google—from search products to local—was widely considered a demotion. She didn’t win a coveted senior vice president job in CEO Larry Page’s big reorganization, despite her stature as Google’s 20th employee.
Mayer’s new job also made news at Brainstorm because she was scheduled to speak. She cancelled, of course.
Marc Andreessen told the crowd that this indicates Yahoo will focus on products. What products, exactly? No one seems sure.
There’s also little confidence Mayer canactually fix Yahoo.
Andreessen mentioned that “there’s not a lot of great tech turnaround stories,” beyond Apple with Steve Jobs.
One attendee who works with Yahoo is worried that its sluggish culture can’t be cured. Its struggles have meant that the best and brightest in the Valley aren’t dying to work there and often don’t stay long.
This person has little confidence that even Mayer can cure that.