Yahoo!'s Shakeup Is for the Best

 | Jan 16, 2014 | 10:22 AM EST
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It was kind of extraordinary what Marissa Mayer did on Wednesday with her first senior executive hire since joining Yahoo! (YHOO) about 18 months ago. She basically kicked him to the curb.

Henrique De Castro was plucked by Mayer from Google (GOOG) a little over a year ago to be her chief operating officer. One of the things that Mayer had reportedly acknowledged to the board of Yahoo! before they hired her was that a blind spot for her was sales. She was a product person. What did she know about schmoozing ad execs from big agencies?

De Castro was supposed to be the person to do that and to finally get Yahoo!'s core-business top-line revenue moving again in the right direction. But he was never the right guy from the start.

The mistake Mayer (and her board) made was giving the star CEO the latitude to pick her top sales person when she herself didn't know the skills necessary to be a good sales person.

Had she checked with a lot of colleagues from Google -- and recall that she can be fastidious in reviewing the data when it's about blue lines on the Google home screen or the logo for Yahoo! -- she would have heard that De Castro was a bit of a blowhard who irritated lots of direct reports and outside sales agency people.

This hiring mistake is on her, no question. But credit Mayer for pulling the plug early, one year into De Castro's tenure, rather than letting pride make a bad situation worse by sticking with a square peg in a round hole.

It was remarkable that in her memo to the Yahoo! troops, she said that she had reflected over the holidays and decided to sack De Castro. That was honest, if a little Game of Thrones cruel.

So does this shakeup matter to the stock price in the near term? I don't think so. Wall Street will probably look forward to the prospect of Yahoo! sales growing sooner, now that De Castro is out of the picture. And Alibaba's third-quarter numbers, which Yahoo! will report in a couple of weeks, probably won't hurt.

Ned Brody is probably going to take over the lion's share of De Castro former sales responsibilities. He's a well-respected ad exec, and he should finally be able to bring some good news to the sales ranks at Yahoo!

This bad episode won't stick to Teflon Marissa, just like Tim Cook never looked back from a bad hire to replace Ron Johnson for Apple (AAPL) retail.

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