Why Yahoo has no CEO in sight

The latest Valley guessing game: Who will be Yahoo's next CEO? Jerry Yang's days seem numbered; if he does not win reelection to the board at Yahoo's annual shareholder meeting, now pushed back to August, he will almost certainly have to step down as boss, too. Overeager to throw a name out — likely in the hopes of currying favor if one of their guesses turns out to be right — the likes of Kara Swisher and Michael Arrington are suggesting a series of candidates. Dan Lyons gets it right in a blog post, writing as Fake Jerry Yang: None of them are likely to fly. None are likely even to be interested in the job.

The likeliest CEOs are nostalgia plays: Former COOs Jeff Mallett and Dan Rosensweig. Mallett, though wealthy from his stint at Yahoo, is underemployed, having seen his last venture, music startup Snocap, sold off for a relative pittance. Rosensweig is working in the world of private equity, a well-paid holding pen for CEOs-in-waiting. Either might do it for love, not money. But why would they feel love for a company whose management ushered them out before they had a shot at the top job?

Yahoo could hire a mercenary. But there's little upside in fixing Yahoo; at best, a turnaround expert might manage to get the company prettied up for a sale. That's not the kind of big score rock-star Silicon Valley CEOs look for, with venture capitalists promising them "ten-baggers" — Valleyspeak for companies whose value goes up tenfold.

The board could turn to internal candidates, of which Yahoo has exactly none. Yahoo's board has figured out, too late, that Sue Decker was at best qualified to be Yahoo's CFO; promoted beyond her abilities, twice in quick succession, she is not the answer to their prayers. She lacks basic people- and product-management skills that a person in her position should have. If anything, the board should be planning for her exit, not her ascension.

That leaves Yahoo with Jerry Yang, whose skill set and ambitions seems limited to bleeding purple. The lack of viable candidates is the only explanation why the founder is still in place.