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In Attempt At Turnaround, Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Hires Outside The Box


The Internet economy has produced some amazing companies that in short order go from nothing to giants's worth billions, sometimes hundreds of billions of dollars. But some companies that were once giants, alongside names like Google and Facebook, are a shadow of their former selves. Think America Online or MySpace. Yahoo has been trying to avoid that trajectory since it lost the browser wars to Google. To recapture its old glow, Yahoo hired Google's highest-ranking woman, Marissa Mayer. Carlos Watson is the cofounder of the online magazine Ozy. Carlos, it was pretty exciting when Marissa Mayer got that job, you know, aside from cracking the glass ceiling, she's an engineer, someone who really do innovate. So two years in, how's she doing?

CARLOS WATSON: You know, she's doing incredibly well. The company has seen its stock price double or triple since she took over two years ago. And now it's got evaluation north of $30 billion. Some people take swipes at them and say a lot of that health has to do with their giant investment in the Chinese Internet company Ali Baba, which is set to go public. But nevertheless there is a sense that Yahoo is no longer on death watch. But what's interesting about Marissa herself is that while she was the 20th employee of Google, so very early on, rose to become very senior, towards the end of her term there, she actually, in a sense, had been demoted. She went from the very top rung to kind of the rung right below that. And it had some of her responsibility shifted away. And so she was at an interesting station in her life. And so as she's gone to Yahoo, in some ways, there may have been some personal parallels, a sense that here was something with tremendous talent, but hit a rough patch and maybe there was a chance to kind of revive it and go north.

RATH: And that's affected her hiring strategy, right?

WATSON: Without a doubt. I mean, I think while most people are out there saying, give me a Sheryl Sandberg - so whether you're a hot company like DropBox or Snapchat, you want to find someone with the impeccable resume like Sheryl Samberg who now Facebook had. Marissa said give me super talented people, but maybe people who had hit a rough patch here or there and therefore, might have the hunger to back. And you see that now in some of her top leaders - the woman who is a chief marketing Officer, Kathy Savitt, had a lot of success at Amazon, but then hit a rough patch with a startup, which raised $50 billion before effectively getting sold in a fire sale. Or you see that with the other big public face of Yahoo - Katie Couric, the former "Today Show" star, who had trouble later on at the "CBS Evening News," and then with her own talk show. And might have something more to prove and has come to Yahoo to launch a new show and to launch some new content. Marisa, herself as well as her kind of core team, actually are a little bit more like the old Oakland Raiders. Give me a fantastic, one-time talent who has struggled a little bit along the way and maybe is hungry for a comeback.

RATH: So she's more like John Madden, you know, with the Oakland Raiders going to some outlaws?

WATSON: Well, you remember that the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s and 1980s often picked up bad boys, castoffs. And in turn, those people gave them three huge Super Bowl wins over about a 10 year period of time. Similarly, when Marissa Mayer has turned to her chief marketing officer or several other people, she's going against the grain. Maybe what you want is someone who was very successful, had some bumps along the road, find that person who's got something to prove, and that maybe your way to double or triple the size of your company.

RATH: Carlos Watson is the cofounder of the online magazine Ozy. Carlos, very interesting. Thank you again.

WATSON: Arun, really good to be with you. Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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