1 finalist in Yahoo CEO race

Interim chief Ross Levinsohn looks like he may get the permanent title soon.

By Kim Peterson Jul 6, 2012 11:24AM
Image: CEO (© Photodisc/Getty Images)Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

Update: Hulu says CEO Jason Kilar has "graciously declined" to be considered for the job. Guess it's all Levinsohn now.

News reports said Friday morning that there were two contenders in the running for Yahoo's (YHOO) CEO position. Both are strong leaders with different backgrounds.

The current interim chief, Ross Levinsohn, has been running the company since former CEO Scott Thompson got busted for adding incorrect information to his resume. Yahoo's board was also considering Jason Kilar, the CEO of online video site Hulu, sources told AllThingsD and Reuters.

If Kilar is indeed out, it looks like Levinsohn has an easy path to the permanent title. But can he save this struggling company?

Reuters notes that Yahoo has essentially been in a leadership vacuum since it rejected a $44 billion buyout offer from Microsoft (MSFT) in 2008. Since then, it's been through four CEOs in four years -- and the last three, which included co-founder Jerry Yang, have been disasters. (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)

The staff has been pared time and again, the strategy has changed repeatedly and high-profile executives have jumped ship. Yahoo needs stability most of all right now, along with a CEO savvy enough to help it regain some significance in the advertising, search and content businesses.

Does Kilar have what it takes? Before joining Hulu in 2007, the fresh-faced exec was at Amazon (AMZN) for 10 years, serving at one point as senior vice president of worldwide application software. He has helped build video website Hulu into a formidable Web presence, developing a subscription plan that brings steady revenue.

Levinsohn, 48, reportedly has the edge here, which he should. A veteran ad executive, he's been a steady presence since joining Yahoo in 2010 to lead the Yahoo Americas region. He was previously at Fox Interactive Media, and helped News Corp. (NWS) buy MySpace.

Even though he's just an interim CEO, he's been acting and making decisions as if he were the real thing. He hired Google's (GOOG) Michael Barrett as chief revenue officer, for example. Board chairman Fred Amoroso has said he wants to see Levinsohn stay as permanent CEO, Bloomberg reports.

If the board was considering Kilar, it's a sign that video will be one of Yahoo's top priorities going forward. The video strategy would also mean more syndication deals, which in turn would help Yahoo grab more advertising dollars. Levinsohn also wants to build out Yahoo's video programming, Reuters reports.

Kilar's range of experience seems too narrow for the top job at Yahoo, and he would be a bigger gamble for the board. The last thing this company needs is another gamble. Levinsohn doesn't have Kilar's software background, but he is a seasoned choice with the right experience, and should be named permanent CEO.

Investors weren't bothered by the CEO news Friday. Yahoo shares were nearly unchanged from Thursday's $15.85 close.

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