Yahoo Names Google’s Marissa Mayer as Chief Executive

Yahoo! Inc. said Marissa Mayer will become chief executive officer, appointing a vice president from competitor Google Inc. to stem user defections and market-share losses that have fueled three straight years of revenue declines at the biggest U.S. Web portal.

Mayer will take over tomorrow from interim CEO Ross Levinsohn, who has led the Sunnyvale, California-based company since May, when Scott Thompson resigned over inaccuracies in his academic record. Shares of Yahoo rose in extended trading after the company made the announcement today in a statement.

As Yahoo’s fifth CEO in four years, Mayer, 37, will be charged with helping the company regain the attention of Web surfers who have backed away from the site, opting instead to socialize on Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. and search the Web using Google’s tools. Her challenge will also be wooing advertisers that have shifted marketing budgets away from Yahoo.

“She’s somebody that has a pretty good track record,” said Herman Leung, an analyst at Susquehanna International Group. “She’s a big name. But investors are saying, ‘We’ve seen this story before -- we don’t know how long this lasts.’ Three CEOs in less than a year certainly makes investors try to temper upside expectations. It comes down to a matter of execution.”

Yahoo shares rose as high as $16.62 after the announcement. They had fallen less than 1 percent to $15.65 at the close in New York, and have declined 3 percent so far this year.

20th Employee

Mayer, who joined Google in 1999 as its 20th employee, is credited with maintaining the company’s Spartan home page for a decade and overseeing such products as Gmail, Google News, and image, book and product search.

At Yahoo, she’ll need to win over users and advertisers who consider the company a has-been that failed to keep pace with Google in search and Facebook in social media.

“There’s lack of gravitas and vibrancy and saliency to the Yahoo brand, and that’s a big problem,” Peter Stabler, an analyst at Wells Fargo & Co. in San Francisco, said in an interview.

Users on average spent less than two hours, 15 minutes on Yahoo pages in March, compared with more than six hours for Facebook, according to ComScore Inc. Yahoo’s share of the U.S. online display-ad market will shrink to about 8 percent in 2014, while the combined share for Google and Facebook will widen to about 39 percent, according to EMarketer Inc.

Yahoo’s sales tumbled 21 percent to $4.98 billion last year. They had peaked at $7.21 billion in 2008. The company is scheduled to report second-quarter earnings tomorrow after 4 p.m. New York time.

Yahoo’s Management

Mayer also will need to bring stability to a management team wracked by upheaval. Yahoo’s Levinsohn had stepped in on May 13 when Thompson left after failing to fix errors in his academic record. Yahoo had also considered Hulu LLC CEO Jason Kilar, whose company said on July 6 that he opted out of the running.

Thompson, former president of EBay Inc.’s PayPal, took the helm in January from Tim Morse, who became interim CEO in September. Morse followed Carol Bartz, whose tenure was marred by falling sales, market-share losses and a public spat with Asian partners. Bartz was named CEO in January 2009, succeeding co-Founder Jerry Yang.

Local Services

Mayer began overseeing location and local services at Google in October 2010 as the company chased areas of growth outside traditional Internet searches. Before that, she designed and developed Google’s search interface as vice president of search products.

“I worked with Marissa for many years -- she’s a great product person, very innovative and a real perfectionist who always wants the best for users,” Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said in an e-mailed statement. “Yahoo has made a good choice and I am personally very excited to see another woman become CEO of a technology company.”

Mayer, Google’s first female engineer, was left out of a new group of senior-most managers named by Larry Page after he was promoted to CEO in 2011.

“Marissa has been a tireless champion of our users,” Page said in an e-mailed statement. “We will miss her talents at Google.”

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