Corporate fixes are notoriously hard. Parachuting into the equivalent of a war zone, with potential landmines at every turn, requires a special gene. And no small amount of brass.
So it is that after a year of corporate upheaval and a slumping stock price, Yahoo announced a brilliant appointment. I don't know if Carol Bartz will turn out to be the messiah-like figure the Yahoo crowd has been praying for. This company is up against the wall. But the new CEO is an old-school technology executive who has thrived in crises that would have overwhelmed most of the good old boys she's competed against since the 1970s.
Over the years, I've had a few occasions to interview Bartz. She's smart and tough and every bit the straight shooter that she claims to be. Bartz weathered a personal struggle with cancer and crushed a rebellion of prima donnas at Autodesk. When the Internet revolution happened, Bartz famously tweaked stock analysts pestering her with the quip: "You'd be happier if we were selling plastic-wrapped fruit baskets over the Internet?" When she finally resigned as CEO in 2006, Bartz had reinvented Autodesk as one of the more successful companies in the software world.
She may not be a "media person" that some thought Yahoo needed, but let's get real. Over the years, the gobbledygook served up by sundry Yahoo execs who grew up in the media world led this company from one disaster to the next. Finally, Yahoo's board woke up and selected someone with coveted business and technology credentials, hoping she is a quick study.
They won't have to wait long to find out. Chairman Roy Bostock stumbled over his prepared remarks and referred to Yahoo's new hire as "Carl" before correcting himself. Not a problem for Bartz. Bostock will soon discover that she'll easily become one of the boys -- only a lot smarter than most of them.