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Yahoo natives abandoning ship

Executive turnover is a fact of corporate life, but Yahoo faces rough seas ahead with the number of key executives who are abandoning ship.

2 min read

Executive turnover is a fact of corporate life, but Yahoo is treading on dangerous ground with the number of key executives who are abandoning ship (see Techmeme).

Yahoo isn't a sinking ship, but it is beginning to list prominently, further calling into question the captain's piloting and leadership skills. The executive exodus is a tacit rejection of the current leadership and the board.

The executives who resigned are carrying a lot of expertise and institutional knowledge out the door. Some have grown tired of the ongoing battle and uncertainty over Yahoo's future and some are not enamored of the impending major reorganization.

Since Microsoft walked away from the negotiating table in May, Yahoo has been in a tailspin, with shareholder suits (mutiny), a skeptical Wall Street, a hounding press and now the very public resignations of key people.

So far Yahoo has not publicly addressed the executive exodus or outlined the reorganization of the company. It's getting more clear that CEO Jerry Yang and President Sue Decker are treading water. Even if they have the vision, smarts, and passion to right the ship, in this situation someone is usually given up to appease the gods of the business underworld. As I wrote previously, Yang bleeds Yahoo purple, his purple blood is in the water, and the sharks are circling.

The question is who would be ideal to take over the ship, rally the troops and deliver competitive products if Yang stepped down as CEO. Decker may be too tainted from the last several months of upheaval. But what outsider would want to take over the company when Carl Icahn and Yahoo's board are fighting for control of the company. And, if Icahn's group manages to get control of the board, would a new CEO just be present to break up the company so the anxious shareholders can take their money and run?

Unfortunately, this latest chapter in Yahoo's brief but impressive history has been just about the money. It would be far more interesting and potentially beneficial to its 500 million users if Yahoo's team were able to focus on building products.

Yahoo issued a statement this afternoon addressing the series of departures:

"We have a deep and talented management team across all areas of the company. Our successful implementation of our core strategies and the timely rollout of key products this year testifies to the effectiveness of our team, and we continue to recruit outstanding talent. Yahoo continues to be a leader in our industry and remains a unique, exciting, and important place to work even as we experience the attrition that's to be expected in the Internet industry."

The reality is that the deep bench of talent is getting thinner by the day, and it's becoming more difficult to recruit outstanding talent under the current circumstances.