Page last updated at 23:42 GMT, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Carol Bartz: 'the safe pick'

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Carol Bartz
Ms Bartz is seen as a no nonsense leader with a clear focus

Carol Bartz, who is known as one of the most powerful female executives in business, has been described as a "safe pick" for the chief executive post at Yahoo.

The 60-year-old former boss of design-software-maker Autodesk is also regarded as a "tough operator" who faces a host of challenges to turn the internet portal around.

"Yahoo is well known for its conservatism. This is a safe choice and at the same time it's sensible and not that exciting," said Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal who runs the respected tech website AllThingsD.

"This is someone who knows how to run a company, but then she doesn't have much competition because Jerry Yang, as much as I like him, has been a disaster as a CEO," Ms Swisher told the BBC.

'Big leagues'

She is known as a 'sustaining manager' and what Yahoo needs is a 'turnaround manager'

Rob Enderle
Analyst, Enderle Group

While at Autodesk for 14 years, Ms Bartz presided over huge growth at the company which is based in San Rafael, California. Revenue ballooned from $300m to $1.5bn under her stewardship.

She stepped down from the chief executive position in 2006 to spend more time with her family and served as its executive chairman. She is also a breast cancer survivor.

Ms Bartz is also on the boards of several Silicon Valley companies such as Cisco, Intel and NetApp.

A major hole in her resume might be the fact she does not have much internet or web advertising experience which is critical to Yahoo. Autodesk is also half the size of Yahoo.

Jerry Yang
Jerry Yang made the decision to quit as CEO late last year

Seasoned analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group, questioned her ability to take on Yahoo at the highest level.

"She is known as a 'sustaining manager' and what Yahoo needs is a 'turnaround manager'," he said.

"Autodesk is a company that has been on an even keel for a long while. It is a company that consistently flies under the radar - not really bad and not really good."

Former Autodesk director Larry Wangberg, told CNET, that Ms Bartz was a very effective chief executive and later chairman.

"She has this enormous capability to make things happen. She is very powerful, in a quiet way, and a results-oriented CEO who is equally comfortable talking to technologists (or to) business people such as (those) in marketing or on Wall Street," he said.


So does this job represent an opportunity or poison chalice?

As one of the first women to run a technology company, Ms Bartz is used to being underestimated.

Nilofer Merchant, a former Autodesk manager who is now CEO of technology consultants Rubicon said she was "driven by doing the best thing for the business."

You never want to be the CEO that walks into the perfect opportunity. You want to be the CEO that walks in and tries to fix something

Mike Gregoire

In her corporate life, Mr Merchant told the Associated Press Ms Bartz talked more like a sailor, recalling profanity-laced phone calls, and describing her as someone who "doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about how people are going to feel. She always wanted to make sure the job got done".

Mr Enderle told BBC News he believed the position could either make or break Ms Bartz's career.

"This is the big league. She is coming up from the minor and going into the majors now," he said.

"She will be tested and if she is up to the test she will never have to work again. She will be able to command the highest salary around. However if she fails, this is a high profile gig and she will be over".

Mike Gregoire of Taleo, an international firm that helps with recruitment and retention for many of the Fortune 500 described the appointment as "an amazing opportunity".

"You never want to be the CEO that walks into the perfect opportunity. You want to be the CEO that walks in and tries to fix something."


Many would argue that there is much to fix. And in some cases, that the company is too broken to repair.

Yahoo web page
Yahoo has lost many top managers over the last two years

"Yahoo has had two years of bad top managers," said Ms Swisher.

"Morale is one of the major issues at the company where the talent pool has diminished drastically. The question she faces is that she is not one of their own but she is 60 years old and will need a lot of executive help."

Microsoft has made it clear that it would like to buy search from Yahoo and the understanding is that an offer will be made soon.

"Ms Bartz has to think really hard if she wants to take the money or buy time and figure out what Yahoo wants to do," said Mr Enderle.

"Search is a dead end for them. They will never have the breadth of Google and there is only one company that has the resources to go after them and that is Microsoft with its world class war chest of cash."

The new boss should be in no doubt about how tricky a task she faced, Mr Enderle added.

"In the range of difficulty in turning Yahoo around, from one to ten, this is an 11."

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