Give Yahoo this much: They know how to keep the rest of us in suspense.
It was a big letdown today for any Yahoo watchers who had expected the company to name Ross Levinsohn as its new CEO during the annual shareholder meeting, which came and went this morning. Levinsohn is still serving as the company's interim boss since May.
Unlike Yahoo's previous two CEOs, Scott Thompson and Carol Bartz, Levinsohn actually has a background in media, a resume entry that one might assume would be helpful running what, essentially, is a media company. That hasn't been the MO at Yahoo for quite a while. Bartz was the one-time chief executive at Autodesk, while Thompson ran online payment service PayPal. This would have been the first time someone with deep media experience would be running Yahoo since Terry Semel stepped down in 2007.
But Yahoo's board is still mulling other candidates, according to AllThingsD, which was first to report that Levinsohn was not going to get the official CEO nod. Levinsohn's appointment had been widely expected since last week when Hulu's Jason Kilar took himself out of the running.
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In his prepared comments to shareholders, Levinsohn described the past year as one of "significant change" that included some "meaningful progress" along the way.
During the Q&A with shareholders, Levinsohn reported that Yahoo had "done a very solid job finding the right types of experiences for consumers," adding that the company is "starting to see growth in certain areas, in certain pockets." In his response to a question from a Calpers representative, Levensohn said that clicks from the Yahoo home page module have increased between 15 percent and 40 percent on a daily basis.
If this was a real-time tryout for the permanent CEO title, Levinsohn acquitted himself capably, fielding a variety of questions, some friendly, others less so.
"It takes time. We're really putting energy and effort and trying to understand where our users go," he said, responding to a shareholder complaining about the user experience when clicking on videos and story links. "I can only ask for you to give us a second chance."
Levinsohn did not get into specifics about a new strategy but he reaffirmed a commitment to keep expenses under control while growing revenues and earnings.
"While I can't really give you all the specifics of where we're headed today, my hope is that comes soon," Levinsohn said, adding that everything the company does will need to be driven by a set of data and metrics. "If we don't execute, none of that matters."
Update 9 a.m. PT: Added some details following the close of the shareholders meeting.