Friday, December 08, 2006

Point Counter-Point with Terry Semel

It's been a few days now since the dust has settled at Yahoo! with their reorganization. We'll have more to say later on the new structure and the next steps in the organization's development. However, it's certainly a step in the right direction.

First off, let's give credit where credit is due. In media appearances done by Terry Semel in the last two days since the announcements, he's shown more fire-in-the-belly than I've seen from him in the last 5 years. Maybe it's a reaction to the rash of criticism that has beset the company, but he has come out swinging -- and it looks good on him. He needs to tap into this and channel it moving forward. It comes across as much more authentic.

In reading through some of Terry's remarks in the past few days, there appeared to be similarities of previously made points from Breakout Performance's 'open letter' to Jerry Yang and David Filo dated November 17th, which marked the first time we discussed CEO succession at Yahoo! and put Sue Decker's name forward as the best internal or external candidate available for Yahoo!, while also suggesting Dan Rosensweig needed to step aside.
Here are Terry's and BP's words for your perusal....

December 5/06: Terry Semel in his blog posting following announcement of the Yahoo! reorg: "Yahoo!’s original strategy of “get big fast” (building audience and brand) needed to change. Yahoo! was ready to enter its second phase.... Yahoo! is now entering what I call its third phase — one focused on customers."

November 17/06: Breakout Performance open letter to Jerry Yang and David Filo: "Although the historians might quibble, there have really been two phases in Yahoo’s development as a company: (1) under Tim Koogle's leadership and (2) under Terry Semel's leadership.... What is needed now at Yahoo!... to take it into its third phase of growth for the next 5 - 10 years?"

December 6/06: TS at Yahoo! all-hands meeting the day after the announcements: "So, we could read about how I'm gonna join some retirement home."

November 17/06: BP: "He’s going to be 64 next February. Neither [Jerry, David,] nor Terry expected that this job would last 10 years. Five years has been suitable to make the changes he [Jerry, and David] wanted him to make. He has certainly left Yahoo! a better place than how he found it. Now is the perfect time to enjoy retirement, moving back full-time to Bel Air and making a significant contribution to a number of important boards across the country."

December 6/06: TS at Y! all-hands: "And we could read about how the company doesn't have a vision."

November 17/06: BP: "Articulate the Vision. The new CEO must articulate a definitive vision for Yahoo! [The company has] a vast array of assets. You can truly define how we will all interact with the Web and rich content moving forward. Yet, the company's leadership has failed to. Into this vacuum, the Skype guys have wrestled this opportunity away from you and are seen - currently - as the 'thought leaders' with the Venice Project. It's not too late. Take back the mantle by having Yahoo! blare its vision from the hilltops and then achieve it!"

Regardless of the similarities, Terry Semel can be pretty satisfied with the way this week has ended up. I agree with Henry Blodget that he has handled these last few days with professionalism. He did the right thing by acknowledging the "Peanut Butter Memo" and encouraging other Yahoo!s to speak out in the future, but not mentioning Brad Garlinghouse by name. Congratulations, Terry. The company is closer where it needs to get to this week than it was last week.

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Anonymous said...

Eric - while I generally like your insights, this one is over-the-top in terms of self-aggrandizement. Don't hurt yourself patting yourself on the back, buddy. Plus, your facts, for the mot part, are wrong. Dan was offered the position heading up the audience group, but he didn't want to move from COO into a business operator role, creating a horse-race for the CEO position against the CFO. As well, Terry began working on the re-organization in September - he initiated it after months of conversations with other senior managers, specifically Filo and Yang, about reinvigorating the company in advance of the Panama launch. It was in the works well before the peanut butter manifesto.

Eric Jackson said...

Hi Anonymous:

Thanks for the post. I think you misunderstood the intention of my post. I certainly wasn't claiming credit for causing the reorg or anything along those lines.

I was simply pointing out 3 similarities of language Terry used in media or company appearances in the two days after the reorg, which struck me as similar to language/references I had used in my earlier letter to Jerry and David. Could be coincidence or it simply could have been that some of those points hit home with Terry and he felt it important to respond (or use the same language with the "three phases" stuff -- which, I'll grant you, could have been easily dreamed up by anyone who knows Yahoo! without having to read a blog posting). I put the words up to let people judge for themselves.

So, don't worry about me, my back's just fine -- from no excessive patting.

What's most intriguing about your posting, I think, is that you seem to confirm what has been written about in various "back stories" of last week about how things cames down (leading to Dan leaving). (I'm assuming that you are an in-the-know current and fairly senior Yahoo.) What you describe seems eminently plausible, especially with the remaining open slot in Audience.

In general, horse races are not that great for morale. So, it's probably much better for all that it worked out with Dan leaving now.

Thanks for leaving the post.