For almost three years now Carol Bartz has been at the helm of Yahoo and it’s been quite a ride. The first two years especially were just one ‘event’ after the other and she has supplied boatloads of posts and quotes that were entertaining enough to discuss but usually left us scratching our heads as to what she was actually trying to accomplish as the CEO of one of the most maligned web companies on the planet.
As if to add whatever (insult just isn’t the right word) to injury, she was notified of her firing by phone and then she turned around notifying her staff of her situation with this e-mail:
From: “Carol Bartz”
I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s Chairman of the Board. It has been my pleasure to work with all of you and I wish you only the best going forward.
The truly perfect ending for Bartz’s contentious and, well, somewhat baffling tenure as the Yahoo CEO, would have been an F-bomb ridden tirade which really seemed to be more her style. But instead we have heard little from her in the recent past, other than to be on painful earnings calls where she was reminded that her ship was going down like the Internet’s Titanic. Anything she was doing in recent months looked more and more like reshuffling the deck chairs on the voyage of a doomed ship.
Just for a quick stroll down memory lane do you remember this classic from Carol about whether or not she would sell Yahoo to Micorsoft.
“If there’s boatloads of money, and there’s the right technology, and the information we would have to have, then yeah….It’s that simple.”
Many journalists like Kara Swisher and Michael Arrington were able to turn Bartz’s penchant for making a longshoreman blush with her language into some talked about moments. Many found them funny but I found it rather sad that Bartz made news more often for dropping an F-bomb rather than making sound business decisions at Yahoo. But hey, we played along, didn’t we?
So what’s next for Bartz? Let’s put it this way, she shouldn’t be hurting for cash. While her reign over Yahoo will be one that is not looked at favorably in a business sense, she walked away a wealthy woman. So for that you have to raise your glass because she now becomes another in a fine line of underperforming CEO’s who managed to do little or nothing to effect real change but still cash out big time. She was able to walk away with a lot of cash because one of ways of affecting change was to layoff people. So she can feel good now when she puts her head on her pillow at night, many people are probably still out of work so she can live in style.
In the end this isn’t so much a story about Carol Bartz being fired. Instead it’s about a company losing its way and not putting the right person in place to help them get back on track.
Now, Yahoo has the chance to make a big name hire to inject some life into the company. Or maybe this is really the beginning of the end for the once proud web property. They still get boatloads of traffic to their home page portal and Yahoo mail still has plenty of users. It’s the trying to be all things to all people approach that has turned the company into a bit of an industry joke. Right now their CFO, Tim Morse, has been named interim CEO. With the way Yahoo is run these days it’s almost irrelevant who is at the helm. When you have run aground there isn’t much sailing to do is there?
As for who might want to come in and try to turn a company around using content production and distribution as the main thrust of their effort? That will be interesting to watch. All one has to do is ask Tim Armstrong how well that plan is coming together at Aol as they prepare to sell off bits and pieces of their own existence.
Let’s face it. Aol and Yahoo are perfect examples of the dark side of having a powerful brand. When you are at the top, your brand is your prize. When you are at the bottom it’s more like a millstone around your neck.
So farewell, Carol, thanks for the boatloads of post fodder. I don’t expect that your next gig will be in the Internet space so I hope whoever hires you likes their CEO’s laced with f-bombs.