Ross Levinsohn, interim CEO, had been the presumptive frontunner
Yahoo has tapped Google executive Marissa Mayer as its next CEO, the company announced on Monday.
This move comes as a surprise since interim CEO Ross Levinsohn had been the presumptive favorite for the position. It is also a major get for Yahoo, as Mayer, 37, is one of the most high-profile and widely respected female executives in Silicon Valley (if not the nation).
Choosing Mayer over Levinsohn appears like another win for technology over media at one of Silicon Valley's biggest companies.
“Marissa is a well-known, visionary leader in user experience and product design and one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting strategists in technology development," Yahoo co-founder David Filo said in a statement. "I look forward to working with her to enhance Yahoo's product offerings for our over 700 million unique monthly visitors.”
The West Virginia native started as one of the first 20 employees at Google, joining after she graduated. Mayer was the company's first female engineer and has played a key role in shaping products like its homepage, Google News and Gmail, and more recently worked on geolocational services.
She holds a master's degree in computer science from Stanford — a real one — as well as a bachelor's degree in symbolic systems.
Yahoo's decision ends two months of speculation, which began with Levinsohn assuming the top spot on an interim basis in May.
Levinsohn took control of the embattled Silicon Valley company following the resignation of Scott Thompson, whose falsified educational records led to his ouster after just four months on the job.
Yahoo had been looking at other candidates to fill the vacancy, such as Hulu’s Jason Kilar, but most of the executives being considered bowed out of the running. All the while, Levinsohn (pictured right), who represented a renewed focus on media rather than technology, remained one of the front runners.
Instead, Yahoo went for Mayer, whose Silicon Valley resume is impressive.
“The Board of Directors unanimously agreed that Marissa’s unparalleled track record in technology, design, and product execution makes her the right leader for Yahoo at this time of enormous opportunity,” Fred Amoroso, Chairman of the Board of Directors, said in a statement.
Though Mayer’s profile has continued to grow, thanks in part to regular speaking engagements and her success building Google's core search business, her path to a more senior position at the company was unclear.
Now Mayer, a Google lifer, will be tasked with getting an aging rival up to speed.
For years, Yahoo has been torn between identities, losing pace to companies like Facebook and Google in the process. Wall Street has soured on the early internet titan, as its growth has flat lined and other companies seized internet advertising dollars.
Mayer will try to succeed where past CEOs, from Terry Semel to Carol Bartz, have failed. She must leverage Yahoo's gigantic user base to power a reimagination of its core businesses.
"Yahoo’s products will continue to enhance our partnerships with advertisers, technology and media companies, while inspiring and delighting our users," Mayer said in a statement. "There is a lot to do and I can’t wait to get started."
She comes aboard after months of turmoil, as activist shareholder Dan Loeb waged a proxy fight against the board. That culminated in Thompson's resignation, and Loeb joining the board.
There is one component left to complete the reshuffle: Levinsohn's role.
Will he stay or will he go?
Alexander C. Kaufman contributed to this report.