So, to the speculation that Sue Decker, CFO of Yahoo, is being lined up to succeed Terry Semel as boss of the aimless internet giant: it's a pleasant daydream, for various reasons I'll go into, and a really misconceived idea. What Yahoo needs to do is to hire a product nazi. Valleywag's madcap idea, after the jump:
Sue Decker, who's frank and articulate, particularly by the standards of her boss, is popular with Wall Street, they say. And I'm sure the press, Valleywag included, would love to see a glamorous female executive — anyone know whether she really was once a model? — running one of Silicon Valley's leading corporations. Carly Fiorina's photo sold magazines on her ascent at Hewlett-Packard, and again during her ouster. Sexist? Blame the readers.
There's been some speculation, in the Wall Street Journal, for instance, that Decker is being groomed for greater things. When Yahoo brought in Hilary Schneider to run its important classifieds business, the company assigned the former Knight-Ridder executive to report into Decker. It's pretty unusual for a CFO, who's supposed to oversee the accounts and talk to investors, to take responsibility for day-to-day business operations. Seeking Alpha's jokey book on the Yahoo succession puts Decker as the clear 3-2 favorite.
Well, hold on a minute. First, it's not at all clear what would be the mechanism for the removal of Terry Semel. The hedge funds, rumored to be taking positions in Yahoo, may put pressure for change. Or Yahoo's founders, Jerry Yang and David Filo, both still major shareholders, might conceivably turn against him. But Semel's still likely to choose the time and manner of his own departure. Yahoo may be operating below potential, but its plight would have to be way worse to incite a putsch.
And even if one was to recruit or promote an executive to take day-to-day control of Yahoo, would Sue Decker really be the right person? To say that Yahoo's problem is poor communication with Wall Street: it's like the claim that the disaster in Iraq is all a matter of presentation. Yahoo doesn't need better investor relations; the internet congomerate, its confusion reflected from the front page on down, needs a clear sense of purpose; and that can only be imposed by a product nazi.
Steve Jobs isn't available. But here's one suggestion we've heard, not so crazy, when you think about it: Jeff Jordan, former SVP of eBay North America. Jordan was sidelined by Meg Whitman, but he has a great reputation among former colleagues for product management. Yahoo needs to decide what it is; and Wall Street will ultimately respect a company with a clear sense of purpose, rather than one that simply tells investors every quarter what they think they want to hear.