Will either Jerry Yang or Steve Ballmer still be in their CEO chairs this time next year? Both have thoroughly embarrassed themselves in their handling of Microsoft's on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again acquisition talks with Yahoo. The tide of public opinion, at long last, may be turning Yang's way. In an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times, he has at last articulated a reason for being CEO: Without him, he argues, Yahoo would be lost.
That's rather an embarrassing statement for his No. 2, Yahoo president Sue Decker, and the rest of the management team — at least, the people Yang has managed to hold onto. Not one of them — least of all Decker — is a plausible CEO. Yang makes the argument that he'd be willing to step down if he thought it best for Yahoo. But he then says, "It’s about what’s going to happen to Yahoo." What would happen, that is, if he left and let Microsoft and Carl Icahn run roughshod over the company.
That ignores Yang's responsibility for Yahoo's plight, of course. Could he not be the reason why Yahoo has been unable to attract a competent CEO a year after Terry Semel quit? A founder who holds a large, but not controlling stake, but is unable to let go of his company; who dithers on major decisions, stalling any action for fear of being wrong; who cannot articulate a vision for his company: Why would anyone want to work for such a man? Jerry Yang thinks he is irreplaceable in his willingness to be replaced. But the truth is, for Yahoo, he's not a martyr. He's a menace.
(Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters)