Sales Exec Out as Yahoo Struggles to Find Itself

As Yahoo struggles to compete with Google and other big Internet players for ad revenue, its management team keeps experimenting with new structures. A leaked memo revealed this week that the company’s longtime global head of advertising sales is leaving in the latest shuffle.

In the confidential memo sent to Yahoo employees and leaked to the media, company president Susan Decker said Yahoo veteran Greg Coleman will depart the company while Hilary Schneider, who has been with the organization for about a year, is taking charge of a new division called “Global Partner Solutions” (GPS).

Coleman came to Yahoo in 2001 and, according to Decker’s memo, played a big part in Yahoo’s growth. He is one of a number of executives to leave as Yahoo works at finding a way to survive in a Web universe dominated by Google. He is the second sales executive to leave this summer, following chief sales officer Wenda Harris Millard, who left in June.

The New Guard

In her new role, Schneider will be responsible for “creating, delivering and coordinating global best practices for solutions” to all Yahoo partners, said Decker. The partners include advertisers, agencies, resellers, publishers and ad networks.

Schneider most recently oversaw the creation of the Yahoo Publishing Network which, along with global sales, the online channel, corporate partnerships and Hot Jobs, will now come under the GPS “umbrella,” said Decker.

Coleman’s departure is directly related to the decision to create the new GPS unit since Schneider will take over most of his job responsibilities, she said.

Paving Path to His Own Exit

Coleman, who will now “pursue other opportunities,” was “actively engaged in leading the integration of Yahoo’s search and display ad sales teams” and in other work that ultimately led to his no longer being needed, Decker said.

“We deeply appreciate Greg’s contributions to Yahoo over the past six and a half years, a period in which our advertising revenues have increased from US$600 million a year to more than $6 billion, with substantial growth not only in the U.S. but in Europe, Asia and key emerging markets around the world,” Decker wrote.

Coleman has agreed to help Yahoo in the transition through February, “closely advising the team,” she added. Despite the successes enjoyed by the Internet search pioneer during Coleman’s tenure, Yahoo now trails Google in many areas. The company’s shares are about half their value compared to a year ago.

Jostling for Position

Schneider is widely seen as a “protege” of Decker, who hired her to operate a number of Yahoo realms including its shopping, Yahoo Travel and Hot Jobs sections, before being placed at the helm, earlier this year, of the Yahoo Publisher Network.

Meanwhile, Decker has elevated her position in the company during the past year. She is now directly beneath cofounder and CEO Jerry Yang on the Yahoo totem pole. Yang grabbed the CEO position upon the departure of former longtime CEO Terry Semel earlier this year.

Coleman’s exit might indicate Yang wasn’t kidding when he recently said even veteran Yahoo employees would not be spared as the company works to reinvent itself, Sterling Market Intelligence Principal Analyst Greg Sterling said.

Asserting Herself

“CEO Jerry Yang said in the last earnings call that there would be no sacred cows in trying to turn around the company’s performance,” Sterling told the E-Commerce Times. “I would say that this is an effort to make good on that pledge and reinvigorate the organization with new leadership in key categories, most notably Hilary Schneider, who now moves into an expanded version of Sue Decker’s old job. But these moves also appear to be Sue Decker asserting herself in her new role as president … I would add that Hilary Schneider’s promotion reflects her status as a rising star within the organization.”

It is unlikely the latest reshuffling of the deck chairs will change the course of the ship anytime soon, Sterling said.

“It remains to be seen whether this latest reorganization has an impact,” he added. “If so, it won’t be immediate. But Yahoo is under pressure and a high degree of scrutiny to show a course correction and meaningful improvement in results over the next couple quarters.”

Decker is now directly in control of Schneider and those running other divisions including network, connected life, Yahoo Europe, emerging markets, Asia region, marketing products and business management, according to her memo.

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