Yahoo chose its new CEO, Silicon Valley veteran Carol Bartz (view Carol’s resume at Autodesk.com). Yahoo lured Bartz, 60, from Autodesk Inc., which specializes in making design software for architects and engineers. Bartz was CEO from 1992 through 2006, when she became executive chairman. Autodesk is just about half the size of Yahoo, with approximately 7,000 employees worldwide.
Bartz is also on the board of directors for Cisco Systems Inc. with Jerry Yang and is also a member of the Intel Corp. board with Yahoo President Susan Decker, who also interviewed for the CEO position. In fact, Yahoo announced that Decker will resign after a transitional period. Wow, guess she’s angry.
Chairman Roy Bostock said Bartz “is the exact combination of seasoned technology executive and savvy leader that the board was looking for, and we are thrilled to have attracted such a world-class talent to Yahoo. She is admired in the Valley as well as on Wall Street for her deep management expertise, strong customer orientation, excellent people skills, and firm understanding of the challenges facing our industry.”
Bostock added that the board “thanks Sue (Decker) for her service as President, the important contributions she has made to Yahoo’s development in a variety of roles over the past 8 1/2 years, and her willingness to work with Carol Bartz to ensure a smooth transition. We respect her decision to move on to other challenges and wish her only the best.”
Bartz’s appointment already sparked renewed speculation of negotiations with Microsoft, who continues to proclaim they are very interested in Yahoo’s search division. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who tried and failed to buy Yahoo last year, publicly said in the past few weeks that a search deal with Yahoo should be made when there is a management transition at both companies. Microsoft late last year hired a former Yahoo search executive to lead its Internet business.
Microsoft is feverishly working to prevent Google from getting 100% of all online search queries. If Google continues to gain market share as they have in the past, it won’t be much longer until they are there! Recent data from HitWise indicates that Google has once again increased their market share in the month of December.
At this point, one must wonder if Microsoft or Yahoo has a shot at competing with Google, together or on their own. Of course, at one point, AOL basically controlled the entire online population, so things certainly do change, and fast.
Investors did not react much to this news yesterday, but many discouraged Yahoo investors have likely already thrown in the towel at this point. Yahoo announces earnings on January 27th, so we’ll see if they have anything to say about Microsoft by then. It will also be interesting to see how PPC advertising is weathering the economic storm.
Yahoo to Partner with Microsoft on Search?
According to regulatory filings, Billionaire investor Carl Icahn increased his position in Yahoo by 6.78 million shares between November 24-26 (at about $10 per share), raising his total to 75.58 million shares (about 5.5% of the company). I saw a recent presentation he made where he stated that he continues to believe Yahoo shares are undervalued, but admits that he also thought they were undervalued when he was last purchasing shares near $25 per share. So far, he is down about $1 billion on his investment. Ouch! He is still looking for some type of partnership with Microsoft on their search efforts which he believes could help save Yahoo a great deal of money. While there are no alleged talks going on at this time, I suspect these two will eventually work out some type of agreement. With Yang stepping down and both Icahn and Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer expressing interest in a search deal getting done, I think something will eventually develop. I would also like to mention that I very much hope that Carl Icahn is a better investor than speaker because quite honestly, listening to him speak was a little painful. Sorry Carl, but it’s the truth.
Black Friday & Cyber Monday Both Posted Impressive Increases Year Over Year
Sales during Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, saw an increase of 3% over the prior year. Last year’s sales of $10.3 billion on Black Friday increased to $10.6 billion spent this year. Though this gain appears promising for the economy, many fear that the increase in sales was at the expense of profitability. And though spending was up on this day, it may still be down for the Holiday season. One Gallup Inc. poll suggests that spending on gifts will be down 29% from a year earlier. We’ll soon know for sure.
Online shopping saw a more dramatic increase in sales. According to data released by ComScore Inc., online sales for Cyber Monday, the Internet’s equivalent to Black Friday, jumped 15% from a year ago as Internet sites lured millions of consumers with offers of free shipping and dramatically reduced prices. Online sales increased from $733 million on Cyber Monday in 2007 to $846 million this year. Forrester Research expects 12% year-over-year growth for online holiday sales, or $44 billion in this November and December.
The US Economy Searches For Stability
The US Economy continues to look a bit frightening and unstable. However, some good things are also taking shape. Gasoline prices are the lowest they have been in years, with prices at about $1.70 per gallon here in Illinois. That’s a far cry from the $4+ getting charged just 6 months ago. Additionally, mortgage rates are dropping and refinancing is rapidly picking up, enabling homeowners to lock in lower rates and lower monthly payments. Though we are clearly not out of the woods yet, there does seem to be shared hope that the economy will stabilize and business will pick up by the end of 2009. I suspect it’s going to be an interesting year.
Since thwarting recent Microsoft buyout and partnership efforts, Yahoo!’s stock price has sunk back to levels not seen since prior to the proposed alliance, a full 50% off of where it had reached during the height of buyout speculation. Yikes. Looks like Yahoo! shareholders were the big losers there.
Perhaps it’s time for both sides to calm down, digest the situation and reconsider working together. After all, it sure looks like Yahoo! needs Microsoft’s help just as badly as Microsoft needs Yahoo!.
Let’s take a look at some recent search query data provided by Compete.com and see who really needs who here. When comparing June, 2008 search traffic numbers to those from June, 2007, there was a 12% decline in actual search queries performed at Yahoo! while Google realized a 44% surge in traffic; That is pretty staggering. Microsoft’s search queries increased, but very little. Based on the 9.1 billion searches performed in June, Google currently dominates search market share receiving 69% of all search queries, followed by Yahoo! with 19% and Microsoft with 8%.
Yahoo!’s one time search query empire has been gradually deteriorating as Google takes over the market. Yahoo! is dominant in other areas, but could certainly use strategic and financial support from Microsoft. Microsoft could be a great ally in trying to prevent Google from further expanding their reach into all areas of technology. I do not necessarily think a buyout is the best solution, though it might be, but I sure think a partnership like the one that had been previously discussed might be wise.
Microsoft needs to increase its Internet presence in order to survive in the future and Yahoo! offers a unique opportunity. Google is already encroaching on Microsoft’s core software business via their free online applications. Microsoft is well aware of Google’s threat in various areas and must do something soon. With Yahoo!’s stock price back to pre-discussion levels and the influence of Carl Icahn who now sits on Yahoo!’s Board of Directors, renewed talks would certainly not surprise me.
Google has already prepared an argument regarding the possibility of Yahoo! and Microsoft partnering, which is a bit ironic since Google has gone on to partner with Yahoo! themselves. We’ll still have to see if the Department of Justice decides to let that deal go through. Until then, I suggest that the powers that be at Microsoft and Yahoo! regroup and reconsider. Hey guys, you both need to do something. The Google Empire has arrived. Clearly, resisting independently has not been working. Perhaps it’s time to try something new.