The ousting of Yahoo!'s chief executive after less than a year forces the flagging Internet pioneer into another painful reboot, but some analysts say it could be a blessing in disguise.
The ousting of Yahoo!'s chief executive after less than a year forces the flagging Internet pioneer into another painful reboot, but some analysts say it could be a blessing in disguise. Yahoo! boss Scott Thompson was ousted Sunday in the face of controversy about an inflated resume, resulting in a truce in a proxy war with mutinous shareholder Daniel Loeb.
Yahoo! boss Scott Thompson was ousted Sunday in the face of controversy about an inflated resume, resulting in a truce in a proxy war with mutinous shareholder Daniel Loeb.
On the surface, the shakeup portends further disarray at a company that has been struggling against the Google juggernaut, and steadily losing market share in Internet search and advertising.
"This CEO mess is going to leave Yahoo! all tied up for at least several more quarters," said independent analyst Jeff Kagan.
Yahoo!'s share of overall US online ad revenue dropped from 15.7 percent in 2009 to just 9.5 percent last year, according to industry tracker eMarketer.
While the online advertising market is expected to grow 23.3 percent to $39.5 billion this year, Yahoo!'s share of revenues will fall further to 7.4 percent, eMarketer says.
But some analysts say the changes will be an opportunity for Yahoo! to reposition the company which is fading in the search business.
In April, Yahoo! accounted for just 13.5 percent of searches, in third place behind Google (66.5 percent) and Microsoft (15.4 percent), whose Bing engine powers Yahoo! under an agreement between the two firms.
"We believe that under new leadership, Yahoo! is more likely to re-emerge as a premier, highly profitable online media company more quickly," said analyst Jordan Rohan at Stifel Nicolaus in a research note.
"Even more importantly, we believe Yahoo!'s newly constituted board will maximize and realize the value of its stake in (Chinese Internet firm) Alibaba. We would add to positions at current levels."
Even more enthusiastic, Henry Blodget of the Business Insider said the turmoil could be "the best thing to happen to Yahoo! in years."
Blodget said the new Yahoo! board members "have expertise that Yahoo desperately needs" and that with Ross Levinsohn as interim CEO, "Yahoo is now, finally, being run by an executive who knows the business that Yahoo is actually in: digital media."
Levinsohn may use his experience as head of Fox Interactive Media, the new media arm of News Corp, and help steer Yahoo! away from challenging Google head-on to focus on digital media.
"It is one of the most powerful digital media companies in the world, with a staggering 700 million users a month," he said.
Under Thompson, Yahoo! dumped products along with workers in a quest to put the company back on course.
Yahoo! said in April that it would slash some 2,000 jobs in a purge aimed at becoming a "smaller, nimbler, more profitable" company. The 17-year-old firm had more than 14,000 employees at the end of 2011.
Rohan at Stifel Nicolaus said there is a strong argument to be made that Yahoo!, with a market capitalization of around $19 billion, is undervalued. He sees the $15 share price rising to around $21.
Rohan said he bases his estimate on Yahoo! owning a 40 percent stake in Alibaba, which he said is worth $41 billion, and its 35 percent stake in Yahoo! Japan.
He said Levinsohn is a good choice because he "has a visceral understanding of what it takes to succeed in the media business."
Yet some argue that Yahoo!'s new CEO still faces an uphill battle in finding a niche for the company.
Rob Enderle at the consultancy Enderle Group said the turmoil will slow any effort to turn Yahoo! around.
He said one possible move is a sale of the company, but argued that "they need someone who can package the company" and turn things around to maximize its sale value.
Enderle said Levinsohn in some respects "may be better qualified than Thompson" but that it is not clear if he will remain beyond an interim period.
The challenge now is Yahoo! finding its path, said Enderle. "It's got to decide what business it wants to do and reinvent itself and invest in that," he said.
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