Yahoo CEO's First Job: Fire Her No. 2S

Yahoo CEO's First Job: Fire Her No. 2S

Yahoo's board will soon announce it has hired Carol Bartz, a software-industry veteran, to run the troubled Web-media business. The first question: How long before Bartz fires Sue Decker, Yahoo's president? (Update: not long!)

Bartz (left) will soon have to take stock of the fact that Decker (right), for all her talents in finance, has long been a burden on the company. The former Wall Street analyst took the company's CFO job in 2001 as a temporary post, a stopover point on her way to a Silicon Valley CEO job. In that role, Decker starved its search business of funds, anxious to preserve Yahoo's profit margins and thereby please investors. But she did so at the precise moment when Google began its meteoric rise.

To sate her personal ambitions, she engineered a reorganization that drove out her chief rival, COO Dan Rosensweig, and then led a palace coup to drive out Hollywood movie mogul Terry Semel as CEO. (It's said that the misplaced kindness of founder Jerry Yang has been the main factor keeping her on the job; she filed for divorce in 2007, and Yang has been loathe to add professional troubles to her personal woes.)

Bartz, as a new CEO, can ill afford to keep such a schemer on board. But Decker is not a stranger to her; they both serve on the board of Intel. And the last thing Yahoo needs is more drama. So Decker's exit, I suspect, will be quiet and graceful, as such things go. But she would be ill-advised to fight for her job. Bartz, when she took over as the CEO of Autodesk, a maker of computer-aided design software, simultaneously fought a quarrelsome founder and breast cancer. She is much tougher, in short, than Rosensweig, Semel, or Yang. And as a woman, she will have no worries of charges of sexism in discarding Decker. It is the first thing she needs to do at Yahoo, and the best way to show her steel.

Updated: Steely indeed. Decker is "resigning."

(Photo of Decker by AP)