Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) CHIEF Executive Terry Semel, 60, may be the Internet's consummate post-bubble executive. Methodical and rigorous in his decision-making, Semel moved fast upon taking the helm at Yahoo in mid-2001 to reel in its myriad businesses -- trimming its units from 44 to 5 -- and to bring management discipline to the foundering Net portal.
Semel's steady hand is reaping huge benefits. Analysts expect Yahoo's 2003 profits to rise 470%, to $245 million, as sales jump 57%, to $1.5 billion. Both projections blow away Yahoo's former bests, achieved in 2000, just before the Internet bubble burst. The results have pushed Yahoo's stock above $40 per share -- about a 150% climb since the start of the year, though nowhere near its 2000 heights.
Sure, the former movie mogul has benefited greatly from a market upswing. But much of Yahoo's success must be traced back to the changes he has wrought. Semel now puts all new ideas through a rigorous sounding board, composed of managers from various corners of the company, which requires that all new businesses mesh with existing ones. This has paid dividends in the ultra-competitive Internet search industry. When Yahoo relaunched its search service in early 2003, managers explored how they could inject Yahoo-generated content directly into the search results. Now, users get everything from weather reports to stock charts directly on their search-results pages -- at least one click faster than on Google or Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) MSN.
Semel also appears to be improving Yahoo's once-dismal record on acquisitions. Analysts expect that HotJobs, the recruitment site Yahoo purchased two years ago, will contribute more than $80 million to the 2003 bottom line. With red-hot competitors like Google on its trail, Semel's management feats may have only just begun.
-- Yahoo! had record profits and sales in 2003, sparking a huge climb in the stock since the start of the year.
-- Semel has boosted focus and discipline in the company, whittling down business units and running new products through a rigorous internal sounding board, dubbed the Product Council