Yahoo Inc picked Google Inc’s Marissa Mayer to become its new CEO, turning to an engineer with established Silicon Valley credentials to help turn around the struggling former Internet powerhouse.
Mayer, 37, edged out front-runner and acting chief executive Ross Levinsohn to become Yahoo’s third CEO in a year. She hopes to stem the losses it has incurred to Google and Facebook Inc — which her high-profile predecessors failed to do.
Her hiring signaled the Internet company is likely to renew its focus on Web technology and products rather than beefing up online content.
Mayer, Google’s 20th employee and first female engineer, has led a number of its businesses and was credited for envisioning the clean, simple Google search interface still in use today, a major selling point for Web surfers.
Also known for her love of fashion and a regular on the society pages, she joins the extremely thin ranks of female Silicon Valley CEOs and told reporters that she was immediately interested when Yahoo’s board reached out to her in mid-June.
“This is a very competitive and a tough space. I don’t think that success is by any means guaranteed,” she said. “My focus is always end-users, great technology and terrific talent.”
Shares of Yahoo, worth less than half their value during its dotcom heyday, gained 2 percent to US$15.97 in after-hours trading.
“It’s a statement on Yahoo’s part to go with a product-centric CEO choice. It’s a very big commitment on the board’s part to pursue a product-centric strategy,” venture capitalist Marc Andreessen told an industry conference hosted by Fortune in Aspen, Colorado.
Tech companies can be turned around, he said, citing as an example Apple Inc, which had teetered on the brink of bankruptcy before Steve Jobs returned to the company he co-founded.
“It’s a big job that Marissa is stepping into,” Andreessen said at the Aspen event.
Mayer was set to start work yesterday, when the company was scheduled to report its quarterly financial results, but she was not expected to join the post-release conference call.
Mayer also revealed on Twitter that she is pregnant with her first child, a boy.
She told Fortune magazine that the baby is due on Oct. 7 and she expects her maternity leave will only be a few weeks long.
Last responsible for Google’s local and location services, she joins fellow female tech chieftains Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard, Virginia Rometty of IBM and Ursula Burns of Xerox, but Mayer’s ascension comes as her profile at Google appeared to have diminished over the past few months. Shortly after Larry Page took over the helm from Eric Schmidt, she was excluded from a group of top executives reporting directly to the CEO and granted oversight over major strategic decisions.
Google executive chairman Schmidt said Mayer’s hiring was a “real win” for Yahoo. However, he dismissed the notion that Mayer left because she was marginalized at Google.
“I promoted her through the ranks and she is now running this sort of big maps business, which is a lot of money,” Schmidt said on the sidelines of the Fortune conference.
“It’s a nice big step for her,” he added. “It’s a loss for Google.”
Mayer said Yahoo can excel as both a media and tech company: “There’s a very uninteresting debate happening around Yahoo between technology and media and it doesn’t really make sense to me. Because you look at most major technology companies, media is a big part of its business.”