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Yahoo raids Google's ranks for its latest CEO

Associated Press Modified: July 16, 2012 at 8:46 pm •  Published: July 16, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo has hired longtime Google executive Marissa Mayer as its next CEO in the Internet company's latest attempt to burnish its image and revive its financial growth after years of often-demoralizing upheaval.

The surprise move announced Monday makes Mayer the fifth Yahoo CEO in the past five years to attempt to turn around an Internet icon that has become as well-known for its follies as its online services.

Yahoo Inc., which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has lost its luster, while Google Inc. and Facebook surged ahead in the battle for the attention of Web surfers and marketing budgets of advertisers. The struggles have depressed Yahoo's stock, pressuring the company to find a leader with the charisma, vision and skills to turn the tide.

Mayer, 37, becomes the second woman to get a chance to salvage Yahoo. Silicon Valley veteran Carol Bartz spent more than two-and-half years as Yahoo's CEO before she was fired last September.

Yahoo picked Mayer over an internal candidate, Ross Levinsohn, who had been widely considered to be the front-runner for the job after stepping in to fill a void created two months ago when the company dumped Scott Thompson as CEO amid a flap over misinformation on his official biography.

Thompson's bio inaccurately said he had college degree in computer science — an accomplishment that Mayer can rightfully list on her resume. She earned a master's in computer science at Stanford University, the same school where the co-founders from both Google and Yahoo honed their engineering skills.

Plucking Mayer from Google represents a rare coup for Yahoo, said Gartner Inc. analyst Allen Weiner. "She brings great leadership and is very popular in Silicon Valley."

Yahoo shares added 33 cents, or more than 2 percent, to $15.98 in extended trading after Mayer's appointment was announced.

When Yahoo first contacted her June 18 about its CEO job, Mayer told The Associated Press on Monday, she wasn't interested in leaving Google. But she became increasingly intrigued with the challenge as her discussions with Yahoo's board progressed.

"I just saw a huge opportunity to have a global impact on users and really help the company in terms of managing its portfolio, attracting great talent and really inspiring and delighting people," Mayer said during an interview.

Although she had her responsibilities at Google narrowed two years ago, Mayer is still widely considered to among the Internet industry's brightest executives. A Wisconsin native, Mayer is a mathematics whiz with an impressive memory and a keen eye for design.

Mayer joined Google in 1999 as its 20th employee and went on to play an integral role in helping co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin exploit their online search technology to outmaneuver Yahoo and establish what still reigns as the Internet's most powerful company.

Along the way, Mayer helped oversee the development and design of Google's popular email and online mapping services. She also became a topic of Silicon Valley gossip during Google's early years as Page's girlfriend for three years. They have since gotten married to other people.

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