You might think it’s too much of a leap to consider Jeff Zucker – former CEO of NBCUniversal – as a potential CEO of Yahoo.
But you'd be wrong.
And is it really such a bad idea?
Zucker was nominated to the board of Yahoo on Tuesday in a filing by the company's most persistently activist shareholder, Dan Loeb. Along with Zucker, Loeb nominated himself and two others in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Why Zucker? Loeb believes that Yahoo desperately needs leadership that understands the world of media. (He also nominated former MTV president Michael Wolf.)
Despite the arrival of Scott Thompson as a new CEO, Loeb, who owns 5.56% of Yahoo’s stock, is not dialing back on his demands that Yahoo replace its leadership. The ouster of CEO Carol Bartz and chairman Roy Bostock and founder Jerry Yang is a start, but apparently not enough.
“It is imperative to accelerate the transition of the Retiring Directors and introduce new outside nominees,” Loeb wrote in the filing. The new leaders do not put the company on "the right track."
Zucker, meanwhile, could use a challenge after losing his perch from NBC with the arrival of Comcast. After all, it’s not like there are lots of career options after running one of the major broadcast companies. (And none of us think Les Moonves is stepping aside.)
What is Zucker up to? Not too much. These days he is an “executive in residence” at Columbia University’s graduate school of business, and keeping busy producing Katie Couric’s new talk show which debuts in syndication in September.
But The Katie Show is “not a full time thing,” according to an individual close to Zucker. Once the staff is fully hired, he will step aside for the daily crew.
And Zucker is certainly wise to what Loeb has in mind for transforming Yahoo.
Loeb and other shareholders are furious at the decline in value of Yahoo’s stock, now trading at about $15 a share, a vertiginous drop from when Microsoft offered to buy the company in 2008.
He belives Yahoo’s leadership not only missed that boat, but has done little to stem the decline in advertising revenue in the face of competition from Google Inc and Facebook.
Could Zucker fix that? Bringing in the determined, diminutive executive would have its hazards. For one thing, Zucker was not exactly a ringing success at NBCU.
But Yahoo needs an identity, and appointing Zucker would cement the internet giant’s brand as a content company. (Much unlike Thompson, who comes from PayPal.) Zucker is also a good salesman, and at the end of the day, Yahoo needs to turn around its fortunes in the advertising space. And finally, Zucker comes from television, which is all about the numbers. And so is the Internet.
Is Zucker interested? Judge for yourself. He needs a job. He would benefit hugely by learning about new media.
“It is not on his bucket list right now,” someone close to Zucker told me.
Which I take to mean: Uh-huh.