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A Yahoo! billboard is visible through trees in San Francisco, California.
Yahoo, the most confused company in media and technology — and more in a second on why "media" and "technology" are why Yahoo is so confused — has named a new CEO. He's Scott Thompson, who comes to Yahoo from PayPal. The big question is, after the disastrous reign of Carol Bartz, a tough-as-nails Silicon Valley leader, does Yahoo need yet another CEO from the land of tech?
Analysts said one of the first tasks for a new Yahoo C.E.O. would likely be to oversee the sale of its Asian assets.
"If a CEO who’s respected in the Internet industry takes control and gives it a unified vision, that will be very helpful," said Jordan Rohan, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. "The sale of the Asian assets is what happens first and what happens afterwards is just a question of how they deploy the cash they get from the sale."
As the NYT reports, Yahoo's businesses in Asia could be worth $17 billion. For perspective, Microsoft was prepared to buy all of Yahoo in 2008 for $44 billion. Yahoo balked at the deal, and it's been down, down, down for the definitive Web 1.0 company ever since, as it struggles to become a Web 2.0 company and compete with rivals such as Google.
The Thompson hire confirms my fear that Yahoo continues to see itself first and foremost as a technology company. I've argued that it isn't — that it enjoyed its best days as a media and entertainment company (Yahoo maintains a significant presence on Southern California) under Terry Semel. Thompson deserves a chance to at least pull Yahoo out of its dive. But it's unclear what the mandate is, beyond that not terribly visionary goal. Once Thompson oversees a deal on the Asian assets, is Yahoo for sale again?
Here's what I thought back in October 2011, when Microsoft was being talked about once again as a buyer:
I think this lessens the chance that I'll get my wish, which is to have Yahoo shed its identify as a tech company and remake itself as a Southern California-based online entertainment juggernaut. Microsoft doesn't need to be buying it. Disney does.