Yahoo expected to name Ross Levinsohn as its new chief executive

This post has been updated

Media veteran Ross Levinsohn is expected to be named the permanent chief executive of Yahoo as early as today, signaling a new chapter for the struggling Internet company, according to one person with knowledge of the situation.

Yahoo’s board is meeting today, where its members are believed to be weighing the decision. [Updated at 2:41 p.m.: A spokesman for the board, Charles Sipkins, declined to comment.]

Levinsohn has served as Yahoo’s interim chief executive since the May resignation of Scott Thompson, amid allegations that Thompson misrepresented his educational credentials.

The selection of a seasoned entertainment industry executive like Levinsohn -- instead of someone drawn from Silicon Valley’s technology ranks -- suggests a new focus for Yahoo as a digital media company.


For years, Yahoo has been ripped by a north-south divide. Those working at its headquarters in Sunnyvale in Northern Californa think of the early Internet pioneer fundamentally as a technology company, while Levinsohn and others in the company’s Santa Monica offices view Yahoo as principally a media company.

Indeed, Levinsohn’s two immediate predecessors -- Carol Bartz, a former head of Autodesk Inc., a computer-aided software design company, and Thompson, who ran online payment service PayPal Inc. -- were consistent with co-founder founder Jerry Yang’s vision of Yahoo as a tech giant.

Levinsohn sees Yahoo differently. He touts the company as a digital media colossus -- in his words, an “untapped jewel” -- with some 700 million users around the world. In presentations to advertisers, he trumpets the company’s dominance in 11 media categories, including finance, news, sports and entertainment.

It’s the view of an executive steeped in the entertainment world who previously served as president of News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media group, where he was responsible for the conglomerate’s digital media strategy.

Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group wrote in a research report issued Wednesday that retaining Levinsohn as Yahoo’s permanent chief executive brings much-needed stability to the struggling company.

However, as the company’s fifth CEO in as many years, he faces significant challenges, including the need of an operational overhaul, repair of its badly tarnished brand, and the urgency to persuade advertisers to invest money.

“Our contacts remain concerned, as we do, about the likelihood of a Yahoo turn-around,” Wieser wrote. “But they also generally see favorable odds for Levinsohn and Michael Barrett, the new head of sales.”


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