The disgraced former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson got himself a new job yesterday as CEO for a startup called ShopRunner. Some might consider it a step down, but given the state of Yahoo, who's better off right now: Thompson or new CEO Marissa Mayer?
According to Businessweek, Thompson's new company works with online retailers to offer benefits such as free two-day shipping. It's not exactly the Fortune 500, but he probably doesn't have to fend off vicious, back-biting board members.
You may recall that Yahoo fired Thompson in May for fudging his resume. An activist shareholder got hold of the news about the resume, and before you knew it, Thompson had joined the long list of former Yahoo CEOs before even getting his feet wet.
As you know by now, Yahoo shocked the world last week by hiring Mayer away from Google. She is the sixth chief executive since 2007. That's not exactly a great track record.
When Thompson took over, Yahoo was a company in disarray, and the resume escapade only made a bad situation worse. Mayer may be superstar material in the technology world, but does even someone as smart and capable as she so obviously is have the ability to turn around a company that is so dysfunctional?
Mayer must deal with horrendous cultural and political issues. Her company lacks any kind of coherent vision, and it has deep market perception problems. Many consider it in the same light as AOL -- a 1990s has-been brand whose time came and went long ago. Much like AOL, Yahoo can't even decide what kind of company it wants to be. A media company? A search engine? A social network? What is it?
How can Mayer hope to solve these myriad problems and make Yahoo profitable again?
And, of course, she has to stop the constant talent drain that has hurt the company over the last several years. The smartest, most competent employees continue to take off for more challenging opportunities at more stable companies. Steve Levy at Wired says that Mayer could solve this problem by cherry-picking talent from the Associate Program Manager program she helped nurture at Google. Because of that program, Mayer could have hundreds of brilliant, loyal people at her disposal, Levy says.
But even with the presence of Mayer, who would really want to join Yahoo at this point? Of course, turning around a Silicon Valley giant is not without precedent. Steve Jobs was able to do it in the late 1990s. When he returned to Apple, it was reportedly just weeks away from bankruptcy. But let's face it. Such success stories are few and far between.
Thompson now has a nice little job at a company with a lot of potential. Mayer has to deal with all the problems outlined above, along with a group of people loyal to interim CEO Ross Levinsohn, who were left in the lurch when she got the job over him. Even with some employees glowing from her hiring, it will take a major transformation to make this company relevant again.
Any way you look at it, Yahoo is a huge mess, and we may find in a year that Thompson gets the last laugh, sailing along steady as she goes at his small startup, while Mayer is mired in the internal politics that undid her predecessors.
And did you exchange
A walk on part in a war
For a lead role in a cage
-- Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here"
— Ron Miller is a freelance technology journalist, blogger, FierceContentManagement editor, and contributing editor at EContent magazine.