Bumps on a Road to Revival for Yahoo

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Marissa Mayer of Yahoo introduced changes in store for the company at a trade show in Las Vegas this month. Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — It looks as if the Google pixie dust isn’t so easy to spread around.

Marissa Mayer’s arrival at Yahoo as chief executive a year and a half ago was widely hailed as an opportunity to infuse the struggling Internet pioneer with the smarts and cachet that had helped her succeed as a top executive at Google. She was one of the earliest employees at Google, with a reputation for inventiveness and

Henrique de Castro Tobias Hase/Picture-Alliance, via Deutsche Presse-Agentur, via Associated Press Images

While Ms. Mayer took the public spotlight — for example, she personally introduced Yahoo’s new consumer technology site at a trade show in Las Vegas this month — Mr. de Castro was charged with the less sexy but equally vital task of reviving Yahoo’s advertising business. While that would be a herculean task for anyone at a company whose fortunes have been declining for a decade, Mr. de Castro was particularly ill suited for the job, according to ad-industry executives, analysts and people who worked with him at Google and Yahoo. When Ms. Mayer hired him, the choice mystified people both inside and outside the company. And tension quickly developed between the two leaders, according to the company insiders, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to not upset business relationships.

Mr. de Castro, a former consultant at McKinsey, was fond of using spreadsheets but was weak in his knowledge of Google’s products, said a person who worked with him at Google.

Additionally, he was not a charismatic salesman willing to schmooze with Madison Avenue marketers to persuade them to spend their ad dollars on Yahoo instead of on rivals like Facebook and Google.

“Henrique wasn’t as market-facing as his predecessors or competitors,” said Amanda Richman, president of investment and activation at Starcom USA, which buys billions of dollars of ads a year on behalf of big consumer brands like Kraft and Kellogg’s.

Mr. de Castro did not respond to phone and email messages on Thursday.

attention to detail. If anyone could fix Yahoo, it was believed, it was Ms. Mayer.

But the announcement on Wednesday that she had tossed out her top lieutenant, Henrique de Castro, was her first public acknowledgment that turning around Yahoo would be far more difficult than has sometimes been suggested by the media attention she has received.

“That was Marissa’s first big hire,” said Robert Peck, an analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. “You can imagine how difficult it would be to admit a mea culpa.”

Bringing on Mr. de Castro, who was also a longtime Google executive, was just one of many prominent moves Ms. Mayer has made, including buying the blog site Tumblr for $1.1 billion, hiring the television host Katie Couric to be the anchor of a new online news operation and starting an online food magazine.

full story: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/technology/yahoo-seeks-to-regain-its-touch.html?_r=0

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