Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like to talk about their hopes of "changing the world." Yes, of course: Changing the world from one in which they are poor to one in which they are fabulously wealthy. The question in the air is whether the founders of companies do a better job at creating wealth, for themselves and their investors, than professional managers. With Yahoo announcing Jerry Yang's plans to step down as CEO, it would seem like a losing time for founders. But Yang is an exceptional case; he took his hands off the steering wheel when Yahoo had a mere five employees, and never really ran anything until he stepped in as CEO last June. Most founders of successful startups eagerly seize power, and have to be forcibly dislodged from the driver's seat. The best never let go. Just take a long-term look at the stock market, and you'll see why.
Yahoo founder Jerry Yang is stepping down as CEO, and a search is underway for a replacement after a tumultuous 18 months on the job. Which is curious. In a recent interview, Yang had just told AllThingsD's Kara Swisher, "In this uncertain environment, I think I am absolutely the right person" to lead Yahoo. He must have changed his mind; Swisher reports that the decision was a "mutual" one made by Yang and Yahoo's board of directors. Either Yang was lying to Swisher, or he was deceived about the board's lack of support for him. Executive recruiter Heidrick & Struggles is conducting a search for Yang's replacement. Finding a successor to Yang will be difficult — not because Yang is irreplaceable, but because he has made such a mess of things that it will be hard to persuade a capable executive to risk their reputation fixing it.There are, nevertheless, some possibilities. One is former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who has been toying with entering politics. eBay and Yahoo have long flirted with a merger, so she's reasonably familiar with the company, and with the challenges of running a large Internet company. A similar candidate: Jon Miller, the former CEO of AOL, who is now a partner at Velocity Interactive Group, a venture-capital firm. Money is tight in venture capital, and Velocity has yet to raise a promised new fund in the multiple hundreds of millions of dollars it had planned for when he joined it. Yet Miller has a problem: Time Warner, the parent of AOL, used his noncompete agreement to prevent him from joining Yahoo's board; it's not clear why they would waive it to let him become CEO. The agreement does not expire until next spring. News Corp. COO Peter Chernin does not seem to have much hope of succeeding Rupert Murdoch as CEO, who is expected to hand the media conglomerate over to one of his children instead. But he does not have a credible claim for having much online experience — overseeing MySpace is the best he can do there. And lastly, as a courtesy, Yahoo's president, Sue Decker, is under consideration. Some say Decker's Machiavellian maneuverings helped out former Hollywood studio boss Terry Semel as CEO last summer. But she's seen inside and outside the company as a bad manager who lacks a vision for what Yahoo should be. More:
Tired of endless campaigns for higher office? Sorry! California's 2010 race for governor is right around the corner. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman hasn't formally entered the race, but she's already busy making gaffes and working on her Web presence. Her reps are pursuing trademark claims against Thomas Hall, a domain-name squatter who registered whitmanforgovernor.com, meg2010.com, and others. Hall told the Sacramento Bee he felt strong-armed when contacted by Whitman's lawyers, and refused to sell. The Whitman camp is now spending $30,000 or more to recover the domain names through an arbitration process set up by the World Intellectual Property Organization. Any doubts she's running for governor?
The nascent political career of ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman just took a knife to the gut — and it was an act of hara-kiri. Whitman, speaking at an event for the Northern Virginia Technology Council, said Virginia was a much better place to start a business than California: "If we were to be starting eBay again, would we choose California? Probably no." Whitman may have a point. But the long-rumored gubernatorial prospect also hasn't learned to speak in soundbites that can't be twisted to make it seem like the pro-business candidate hates the California business culture which made her rich.
We don't know if our tipster was drunk or if the event got relocated after we wrote about it, but Lead21's election-night viewing party, which we had heard was due to be held at the house of Facebook board member Peter Thiel, is now taking place at Jones, a sports bar and steakhouse in San Francisco near Thiel's Marina-district mansion. (The rationale for the locale: Jones has more televisions for watching the results.) Thiel is a major player in Lead21, and has hosted previous election-night parties for San Francisco's Republican minority, we're told, but he may skip this one because of his travel plans. Still, if you want to get a gander of guests of honor Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, the tech CEOs turned McCain advisors, show up at Jones starting at 5 p.m. The bar remains open to the public during the event, so you're not technically crashing. (Photo by AP/Dharapak)
"Where have Silicon Valley's Republicans gone?" laments CNET News writer Declan McCullagh. George W. Bush backer Tim Draper has switched to the Obama team. There are a few stalwarts: Former Valley CEOs Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have campaigned for McCain. And the two are going to be special guests at an election-night party thrown by Lead21. The group, which describes itself as "an influential political organization formed by entrepreneurial business leaders," is coy about the location of the party.But we're not. A source told us it's being held at the rented mansion of Facebook board member Peter Thiel, the former PayPal CEO and founder of Clarium Capital, a hedge fund. Thiel backed Ron Paul in the primaries, but what we really want to know is: What is the gay investor's position on California's proposed gay-marriage ban? Festivities start at 6 p.m. Oh, need directions? Thiel is listed in the phone book. Update: Lead21 chair Sonia Arrison writes:
A source embedded in the political world claims Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, has set up a committee to explore a run for governor of California in 2010. The Secretary of State's office doesn't list her as having filed a statement of intention yet, which is required before she can begin raising money for a run. The San Jose Mercury News recently reported that Whitman was looking to hire a political consulting firm in Sacramento. What really has us interested: The prospect of a race between Whitman, whose Internet new-money fortune is estimated at $1.3 billion, and San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, whose family gets its funding from the city's old-line elite. The Hair versus The Sensible 'Do? We're as excited as Whitman's dog about this one.
Pierre Omidyar, the one-and-only founder of eBay, didn't much appreciate John McCain's tip of the hat in last night's debate to Meg Whitman, eBay's former CEO. "Meg Whitman was CEO of a company which started with 12 people," McCain said, which rather riled Omidyar. Omidyar started the company by himself in September 1995; Whitman joined in March 1998, when the company already had 30 employees.
Asked about possible candidates to serve as his Treasury secretary, John McCain said in Tuesday's presidential-candidate debate that Meg Whitman was a top candidate. His running mate, Sarah Palin, loves to talk about putting the state jet on eBay (even though, as is all too typical for eBay sellers these days, it didn't actually result in a sale). Whitman's record at eBay is mixed; she probably stayed three years too long. But since we're on the topic, why not put all the worthless mortgage securities the government is buying on eBay? The listing fees alone will be a major boon to the Silicon Valley economy.
If John McCain gets into the White House, he probably won't ask Treasury secretary Henry Paulson to stay. "I think it would be someone that Americans would recognize that would inspire trust and confidence. There's people like John Chambers, there's people like Meg Whitman, there's people like Warren Buffett," McCain told Reuters. Two of those three might consider the job a step up. (Photos by AP/Dharapak, AP/Paul Sakuma)
A reader describes the scene: "Meg [Whitman] relaxes by violating the privacy of a small dog." The friendly image of a woman, her dog Eastie and her dog's ladyparts ran with a fawning profile by Jon Swartz in USA Today that alludes to a possible gubernatorial run by the former eBay CEO and current Republican Party operative. C'mon, I know you can come up with a better headline. Leave it in the comments and we'll crown the winner by replacing the title of this post. Yesterday BerthaAgrippa gave us a tickle with "Enabling intimate one to one customer relationships."
During her speech at the Republican National Convention, VP nominee and Alaska governor Sarah Palin said that when she took office she first started cutting state spending by selling her predecessor's jet. Then Palin nailed a crowd-pleaser saying: "I put it on eBay." And it's true, she did. But eBay, then helmed by Palin's fellow RNC speaker Meg Whitman, couldn't handle the business. Palin's people listed the jet three times on the site, but no one would bid a minimum of $2.5 million. "The eBay thing didn't work out very well," a local paper wrote after the failures. Palin eventually sold the jet using a traditional aircraft broker, selling it for $2.1 million — $500,000 less than the state paid.
When she was CEO at eBay, Meg Whitman was known for her speeches. Or at least, she was known for her love of them. Her talent for them, not so much. What happened when she addressed a crowd of people who weren't drawing a paycheck from her? Speaking before prime time during the Republican National Convention last night, Whitman dutifully stuck to the McCain campaign's talking points in a 10-minute-long — long, long, long — speech on prosperity through lowered taxes and offshore drilling. Cameras showed the crowd ignoring her 5 minutes in. From that point on, Whitman was little more than background noise for conversations with other delegates. Now we know why Whitman only made McCain's list of 20 finalists for the VP job he eventually gave to Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who brought down the house with her own flinty partisan jabs later that night.