Google's Marissa Mayer named Yahoo CEO

Does this young executive have what it takes to lead a company fighting for its life?

By Kim Peterson Jul 16, 2012 4:45PM
We all thought advertising veteran Ross Levinsohn was a shoo-in for the top job at Yahoo (YHOO), but boy, did the board have a surprise waiting.

The new CEO is a huge gamble in the form of Marissa Mayer, a 37-year-old executive at Google (GOOG). She has no experience running a public company and has spent nearly all of her professional career at Google, where she was the 20th hire.

Mayer is an engineer by training, and at Google has helped develop Gmail, Google News and Google Images. She lives in a fancy penthouse in the Four Seasons in San Francisco and has been known for her love of cupcakes, The New York Times reports.

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This sounds like another disaster for Yahoo, a company that has churned through four CEOs in four years. Yahoo has one of the worst boards in the business, and the last thing it needs is a young, untested CEO who has never run a company.

Many Yahoo observers had been rooting for Levinsohn, who was filling in as interim CEO after the previous CEO was busted in May for inaccuracies on his resume. Levinsohn was previously the head of global media at Yahoo, and in his short time as chief was already getting the company back in order. He brokered a settlement that ended Yahoo's ridiculous patent lawsuit against Facebook, for example. He hired a different Google exec, Michael Barrett, as chief revenue officer.

But some insiders worried that Levinsohn couldn't be more than just an "ad guy," the Times reports.

What is Yahoo thinking? This strikes me as a Hail Mary pass by the board to find someone who can return Yahoo to its glory days. Mayer is very good at managing products like Gmail and turning them into hits. She ran Google's search products and lately has been helping the company with local business products.

Mayer is a fashionista with a love of Oscar de la Renta clothes and a personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman. De La Renta told Vogue that she's one of his biggest customers. (Read the Vogue profile here.) But she's also making her way up in the business world, and earlier this year was named to the board at Wal-Mart (WMT).

She may have been passed over at Google when the company named Jeff Huber as its senior vice president of local and commerce, however, Forbes reports. She was not part of Google's core leadership team even after 13 years there, AllThingsD reports.

Yahoo is a media company, after all, but its choice of Mayer shows it wants to refocus on being a product company and a technical company. In a statement announcing the news, Yahoo co-founder David Filo called Mayer a leader in user experience and product design. "I look forward to working with her to enhance Yahoo's product offerings," he added.

Mayer has technical know-how, to be sure. But can she make anything out of a struggling company fighting for its life? She's a very risky choice, but sometimes the biggest risks pay off the most.

Jul 16, 2012 5:15PM

With any luck, she will fire Chris Chase.

Jul 16, 2012 5:57PM
I find it interesting that her wardrobe and "Love of cupcakes" are mentioned. Would a story about a man with the same qualifications detail his love of Armani? Is she a good choice for Yahoo? I have no idea, but they sure need some help. Maybe they are looking for someone to improve their product offerings since the more people using their products means more ad views and revenue
Jul 16, 2012 5:17PM
Thank God, I was afraid Yahoo would make Chris Chase CEO.
Jul 16, 2012 11:05PM
Yahoo.   Idiots.   Worst public board in tech history makes anohter mistake.   Hello idiots who are rooting for anohter woman CEO.   In fact, she will bring less woman CEOs to the table in the future so you idiots should be booing not cheering.   I own no stock so all good for me,

A CEO with a resume about the same as mine.  What is wrong with yahoo?

Jul 16, 2012 7:07PM
Sometimes its good to start with someone fresh and particular a woman.  Ursula of HP was an excellent choice for HP.  I am certain that we will see something new and fresh.
Jul 16, 2012 6:16PM
I have no idea what she'll do, but given the mainstream CEO and their greed for the almighty dollar who knows?
Jul 18, 2012 8:11PM
In honor of her being a new mom, the name Yahoo! will be officially to Waaaa! 
Jul 16, 2012 7:16PM
I've been watching Yahoo for so long waiting for something good to happen. Maybe Marrisa is it. New blood can be good. Here's wishing Marissa the best.  I may buy some Yahoo to hold my attention.
Jul 16, 2012 5:29PM
Comcast has brought Microsoft's 50% of MSNBC. All you Obama loving liberals run for cover. Conservatives may get equal time on the new Comcast owned NBC.
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