Google’s Mayer is new Yahoo supremo

YAHOO has hired long-time Google executive Marissa Mayer as its next chief executive in the internet company’s latest attempt to burnish its image and revive its financial growth after years of upheaval.

The surprise move announced makes Ms Mayer, 37, the fifth Yahoo CEO in the past five years to attempt to turn around the internet giant.

Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale, California, has lost its lustre, while Google and Facebook surged ahead in the battle for the attention of web surfers and marketing budgets of advertisers. The struggles have depressed Yahoo’s stock, pressuring the company to find a leader with the charisma, vision and skills to turn the tide.

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Ms Mayer becomes the second woman to get a chance to salvage Yahoo. Silicon Valley veteran Carol Bartz spent more than two-and-half years as CEO before she was sacked last September.

Yahoo picked Ms Mayer over an internal candidate, Ross Levinsohn, who had been widely considered to be the front-runner for the job after stepping in to fill a void created two months ago when the company dumped Scott Thompson as CEO amid a flap over misinformation on his official biography.

Mr Thompson’s bio inaccurately said he had college degree in computer science - an accomplishment that Ms Mayer can rightfully list on her CV. She earned a master’s in computer science at Stanford University, the same school where the co-founders from both Google and Yahoo honed their engineering skills.

Plucking Ms Mayer from Google represents a rare coup for Yahoo, said Gartner analyst Allen Weiner. “She brings great leadership and is very popular in Silicon Valley,” he said.

Ms Mayer said yesterday that when Yahoo first contacted her on June 18 about the CEO job, she was not interested in leaving Google. But she became increasingly intrigued with the challenge as her discussions with Yahoo’s board progressed.

“I just saw a huge opportunity to have a global impact on users and really help the company in terms of managing its portfolio, attracting great talent and really inspiring and delighting people,” she said.

But she added: “It’s a bittersweet day for me. Google is really my family. They have been life-defining for me.”

Although she had her responsibilities at Google narrowed two years ago, Ms Mayer is still widely considered to among the internet industry’s brightest executives. The Wisconsin native is a mathematics whiz with an impressive memory and a keen eye for design.

She joined Google in 1999 as its 20th employee and went on to play an integral role in helping co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin exploit their online search technology to outmanoeuvre Yahoo and establish what still reigns as the internet’s most powerful company.

Along the way, Ms Mayer helped oversee the development and design of Google’s popular email and online mapping services. She also became a topic of Silicon Valley gossip during Google’s early years as Mr Page’s girlfriend for three years. They have since married other people.

“We will miss her talents,” Mr Page, now Google’s CEO, said in a statement.

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt hailed Ms Mayer as “a great product person, very innovative and a real perfectionist who always wants the best for users”.

“Yahoo has made a great choice,” he said.

Mayer becomes the second high-ranking female executive at Google to defect to one of the company’s biggest rivals. Sheryl Sandberg, who helped expand Google’s online advertising network, left in 2008 to become Facebook’s chief operating officer.