Even Ross Levinsohn May Not Be Able to Save Yahoo


It looks like the Yahoo CEO race may have been run to completion. This morning, the selection was narrowed down to two: Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar and acting CEO Ross Levinsohn. Now, Hulu representatives say that Kilar has “graciously declined” to be considered, leaving Levinsohn the only remaining choice. Barring any surprising news, Levinsohn will become Yahoo’s fifth CEO since the 2008 choice to decline Microsoft’s $44 billion buyout offer that left the company seemingly in turmoil.

What does Ross Levinsohn bring to the table? First and foremost, he brings experience with the inner workings of Yahoo: he’s been on their board since 2010. Most importantly, though, he’s been acting CEO since May, when he took over for Scott Thompson. In that time, he’s been able to cooperate with other companies in a way that Thompson couldn’t. Where Thompson in March began disputes with Facebook over patents, leading to a succession of lawsuits, Levinsohn has been able to resolve the tensions and has in fact established a partnership with Facebook and a particularly amicable relationship with Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sanderberg.

Levinsohn also brings valuable media experience outside of the realms of Yahoo that will help him to expand the company and overcome the mistakes of his predecessors. His executive experience at News Corps.’s Fox Interactive Media Group means that he has the experience and the connections necessary to run Yahoo as a digital media company.

The question that remains to be seen is how Levinsohn will handle online advertising. Yahoo’s two previous CEO’s lacked advertising connections and experience, which Levinsohn has in spades, but that doesn’t eliminate competition from Facebook and Google, as well as from other media companies. With Google leading the search engine race and Facebook seemingly untouchable as the world’s social network, Yahoo sits somewhere between search engine and media company, and may be forced to carve itself a niche or risk falling into oblivion.

If Levinsohn’s past months as interim CEO are anything to go by, he’s possibly the best choice for CEO. It may be too late for Yahoo, though.