Yahoo Execs Exit Stage Left - InformationWeek

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6/20/2008
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Yahoo Execs Exit Stage Left

Though it's easy to make Yahoo's failure with Microsoft or the company's partnership with Google a scapegoat for these departures, there are some who are just moving on.

The revolving door at Yahoo must be well oiled, because a smattering of executive departures over the last two years has turned into a constant line of them.

In the two weeks since Yahoo announced that Microsoft's overtures for the company and then its search group were officially dead and Yahoo and Google signed a nonexclusive advertising pact, several top Yahoo execs have headed for the exits.

Among them are a few of the company's top search execs. This week, Vish Makhijani, senior VP and general manager of Yahoo Search, left to become CEO of Russian search engine Yandex's Yandex Labs, where he'll improve Yandex's search technology, including search algorithms.

Qi Lu, executive VP of engineering for Yahoo's search and advertising technology group, is also on the way out, according to several reports. Lu has been in charge of building Yahoo's Panama search marketing system, the future of which had been up in the air among the discussions with Microsoft and the eventual nonexclusive ad deal with Google. It's not going away, but Lu is.

Brad Garlinghouse, Yahoo's apparently outgoing senior VP of communities and communications, oversaw some of Yahoo's biggest-ticket items, such as Flickr and Yahoo Mail and Messenger. About two years ago, Garlinghouse wrote a now-famous memo called the "Peanut Butter Manifesto" detailing Yahoo's problems at the time and using peanut butter as a metaphor for the company's failures. It's unclear where Garlinghouse is headed, or even whether he's left, but his departure has been reported by both TechCrunch and The Wall Street Journal's BoomTown blog.

Among the others who've left in June: Jeff Weiner, a senior VP in charge of networks, stepped down last week to become an entrepreneur in residence at both Accel Partners and Greylock Partners. Usama Fayyad, former chief data officer and executive VP of research and strategic data solutions, is leaving for untold pastures. Flickr founders Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield are leaving. Joshua Schacter, who founded social bookmarking site Del.icio.us, is out too. Another who's leaving is Jason Zajac, general manager of social media at Yahoo. Zajac has worn various hats, including head of finance for the company's audience division and VP of corporate strategy.

There are a number of reasons top employees may be leaving Yahoo in droves. A major reorganization could be one. According to Wall Street Journal reports Thursday, the company intends to consolidate its e-mail, search, and home page into one product organization. There's also the looming issue of investor Carl Icahn's bid to change Yahoo's board of executives.

Meanwhile, Microsoft took out an ad this week in the San Jose Mercury News, one of Yahoo's hometown papers. "There are now very few companies that remain truly committed to defining the future of search and online advertising," the ad read. "Microsoft is one of them."

And though it's easy to make Yahoo's failure to find pay dirt with Microsoft or the company's partnership with Google a scapegoat for these departures, there are some who are just moving on. Top Yahoo evangelist and engineer Jeremy Zawodny is joining Craigslist next month after recently receiving a headhunting e-mail from Craigslist's CTO.

"I won't at all be surprised if some people think this is related to Microsoft or Carl Icahn and the uncertainty surrounding Yahoo's future," he said in a blog post last week. "The reality is that there's nothing pushing me out the door at Yahoo."

For its part, Yahoo doesn't sound like it's exactly in panic mode. "We have a deep and talented management team across all areas of the company," the company said in a statement.

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