Ross Levinsohn, who was interim chief executive officer of Yahoo Inc until Marissa Mayer became CEO in July, said his successor would need years and a patient board to turn around the Web portal.
“You have to give Marissa and the team that’s there the time to finish the job,” Levinsohn said in an interview with Bloomberg West on Wednesday, his first since stepping down.
“You can’t turn that company or any company of size around in six months or a year,” he added.
Levinsohn held the top post at Yahoo less than three months, and had become a candidate to lead the company before the unexpected hiring of Mayer, an executive from Google Inc tapped to reverse three years of declining revenue at the biggest US Web portal.
Mayer is Yahoo’s fifth CEO in three years.
“Yahoo is a battleship,” Levinsohn said. “To turn a battleship takes a long time, but once you turn that battleship the right way, it’s a battleship, and it can really inflict some damage on an enemy.”
Levinsohn said his departure, announced shortly after Mayer’s appointment, was amicable.
“I felt I took a good run at trying to be CEO,” he said. “It was probably the right thing to move on after I didn’t get it.”
Among the responsibilities Levinsohn handed off to Mayer is a search advertising pact with Microsoft Corp, forged in 2009 by another former Yahoo chief, Carol Bartz. Certain terms of the pact are set to expire in April.
In the interview, Levinsohn dismissed speculation that Mayer could try to end the partnership in favor of Google, and said he expected Microsoft to be an important ally for Yahoo.
“They’ve made improvements in terms of search query, in terms of ad matching, in terms of innovations, in terms of design,” Levinsohn said.
“Marissa comes from a real search background. If they can work hand in hand, it should get better,” he said.