Yahoo's hiring of Scott Thompson as its new chief executive may grease the skids for an investment in the Web giant from the Andreessen Horowitz venture capital firm.
Andreessen Horowitz has already submitted a bid for a piece of Yahoo. Thompson has a connection to the firm. The former PayPal president was hired at the online payment service by then-PayPal President Jeff Jordan. These days, Jordan is a partner at Andreessen Horowitz and reportedly among those working on the firm's bid for a Yahoo stake.
Jordan was effusive, in a press release, when PayPal hired Thompson as senior vice president and chief technology officer from Visa subsidiary Inovant in 2005.
"Scott is one of the most respected technology professionals in the financial services industry, and we are thrilled that he is joining the PayPal team," Jordan said of his direct report in a press release (PDF) at the time. "Scott's expertise will help lead PayPal to our ultimate goal of becoming the global online payments standard."
That relationship can only help Andreessen Horowitz's effort to buy a piece of Yahoo. Late last year, the firm joined Microsoft and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board in a $16.60 a share offer led by the investment firm Silver Lake. There had been reports that Jordan, as well as Andreessen Horowitz front man Marc Andreessen, might lead Yahoo. But the pair quashed that notion in a blog post.
Thompson has plenty of work in front of him. Much of the focus has been on his lack of media and advertising background, the businesses that fuel Yahoo's top line.
Thompson, though, brings a deep technology resume to the job. Prior to working at Visa, Thompson served as chief information officer of Barclays Global Investors. In a conference call with analysts and journalists today, he talked about the importance of using data to build businesses that resonate with consumers.
"I feel certain that that wealth of data is going to be exploitable for next-generation products, next-generation experiences, and for super competitive capabilities in the display space in other space databases that are in marketing and advertising," Thompson said.
Thompson will also need to improve employee morale, which sank with Yahoo's fortunes over the last few years. His predecessor, Carol Bartz, struggled to keep workers happy. According to Glassdoor, a jobs and career Web site, Bartz left Yahoo with a 54 percent approval rating from employees, below the average CEO approval rating on the site of 62 percent. Thompson leaves PayPal with a 69 percent approval rating among employees.
It's likely that Thompson, too, will play a role in considering the various bids for Yahoo. In addition to the Andreessen Horowitz-Silver Lake offer, TPG Capital has also put in an offer for the Web company, reportedly bidding $1 more a share. Also, Alibaba Group, Yahoo's Chinese Internet partner, in which Yahoo still owns a 40 percent stake, is said to be talking with private equity firms about putting together an offer for the entire company.
Thompson's connection to Jordan and Andreessen Horowitz, though, gives it at least one advantage other bidders can't match.