Google executive Marissa Mayer made a phone call Monday, probably one that Google didn’t expect. She quit her job. This morning she starts a new job at Yahoo, as their new CEO.
It’s a 2×4 to the face for Google, and the biggest coup Yahoo has scored in perhaps a decade.
Mayer was one of Google’s first 20 employees, and was influential in all of Google’s early products: the search page, Gmail, Google News, and Google Maps. She was a long shot to ascend to Google’s CEO post anytime soon–Larry Page has that job locked up, and there are at least two other executives in front her her in the line of succession–and Yahoo infamously has an immediate opening. Mayer not only has the credentials her predecessor lacked, she also has a track record and a tremendous amount of industry respect.
With this hire, Yahoo definitely sends one very clear message: They didn’t hire her to sell the company. You don’t hire a superstar like Marissa Mayer for that.
I’m sure it will take some time for Mayer to figure out what to do with what Yahoo has. But having enough has never really been Yahoo’s problem–Yahoo has bought up a lot of properties over the years, and never knew what to do with all of them. But having a bunch of pieces that don’t fit together very obviously and making tons of money with it is possible. The company who’s done that is Google, and Mayer had quite a bit to do with that.
In the New York Times’ coverage of her hire, Mayer said taking the Yahoo job was a relatively easy decision. I believe it. It’s really a no-lose situation for her. If she turns Yahoo around, her legend will grow to mythical status. If Yahoo does anything but rocket past its past glory, she can point out that Yahoo has been struggling since 2001 and has gone through 7 different CEOs in that time, and say they waited too long to hire her. Another company will give her a chance if she needs it.
Yahoo was up in after-hours trading last night. As it probably should be.