This is just pure speculation, mind you, but I have a bit more than a hunch that now-former Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel's departure from that post was hastened by his inaction in terms of getting Yahoo! as deep into social media as it could have been.
Awful interesting that just two days after Semel gets kicked upstairs to a "non-executive chairman post, comes rife rumors that Yahoo! and News Corp. are negotiating a trade of blue-chip social media property MySpace to Yahoo! in exchange for News Corp. (Rupert Murdoch, you know) acquiring about 25 percent of Yahoo!
Such a deal is widely thought to be in the $12 billion range.
My hunch is that Semel stood in the way of negotiations to make this rumored deal work. For yet another appearance of interaction, his CEO title was taken away from him.
It's not that Terry didn't have the chance to buy MySpace, and for a whole lot less than the $5 billion News Corp. paid for it. He could have had YouTube (which according to some estimates accounts for 10 percent of all Internet traffic) for less than the $1,6 billion Google paid for it. Terry could have bought Facebook, which, amazingly is still available.
And to extend my point to a topic we often cover here, Yahoo! Messenger achieved PTSN (Public Switched Telephone Network) compatibility, but has never been actively and consistently marketed as an Internet telephony service. Terry, I'm betting, didn't want to offend Yahoo!'s legacy telecom partners.
See what I am driving at here? There is a time and place to be cautious, but time and again, Terry Semel has appeared to value prudency, old-school service alliances and and old-management-style ROI definitiveness over the art of the dare.
Terry's a cautious suit. As a strategist, he's a spent force.
Update: A colleague has just contacted me with a very well-considered counterpoint. Up until now, Yahoo! co-founder, co-largest shareholder and strategy-empowered Jerry Yang hasn't used his clout to push as hard as he could have been for a more proactive and unified acquisition regimen. By holding his fire, Jerry could be assessed part of the blame for Yahoo!'s situation that he now says he is going to fix.
I think that now, after seeing how Terry the suit has handle things, Jerry Yang gets it. As a strategist, his day has come.