June 19, 2007
Written by C.N.
Since the dawning of the Internet Age (I suppose that would be starting in the mid-1990s), one of the brightest entrepreneurial stars — Asian American or otherwise — has been Jerry Yang, co-founder of Internet giant Yahoo. As the San Jose Mercury News reports, he left the company he helped to create several years ago but is now dramatically being called upon to return and lead it once again:
Earlier this decade Yahoo gambled that content and Hollywood would be the key to its success. Google banked on technology. Monday’s dramatic shake-up at Yahoo, with the ouster of showbiz veteran Terry Semel as CEO and the installation of co-founder Jerry Yang and financial wizard Sue Decker at the helm, is a long-awaited acknowledgment that Yahoo’s bet was the wrong one. Yang as chief executive and Decker as president are expected to refocus the Sunnyvale Internet giant on technology. . . .
Yahoo’s value has fallen by more than 35 percent since early 2006. A delay of new advertising software and a steady exodus of talent have prompted concern that the company has lost its competitive edge. . . . Although Yang, 38, has never been chief executive of Yahoo, he has been part of the management team – with the title “chief Yahoo” – since co-creating the site with David Filo in 1994. . . .
Yang and Decker endorsed Yahoo’s current strategy and said deals with eBay, Comcast and a consortium of 12 newspaper companies, including MediaNews, the owner of the Mercury News, would lead to significant growth in the years ahead. “Yahoo is a company that started with a vision and a dream, and make no mistake, that dream is very much alive,” Yang said during the conference call.
Obviously, my expertise is not in Internet business analysis, so I can’t authoritatively comment on Jerry Yang’s chances of success in turning Yahoo around. But as an Asian American Studies scholar, I can say that Yang’s promotion to Yahoo CEO instantly makes him one of the highest profile CEOs in the country and most certainly, the highest profile Asian American CEO in the country (not that there are that many to begin with, but nonetheless).
In that sense, for better and for worse, Jerry shoulders a little extra burden because his success or failure is likely to have some reflection on the leadership abilities of Asian Americans in general. It’s a rather unfair burden to carry, but that is the practical reality of the situation, mainly because (1) there are relatively few Asian American business executives out there and (2) there is still the lingering stereotype that the actions or characteristics of one or a small group of prominent Asian Americans somehow can be generalized to the entire Asian American population.
I wish Jerry the very best in his efforts and from what I know about him, I am confident that he is indeed the person to get the job done.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Jerry Yang is Back to Lead Yahoo" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/06/jerry-yang-is-back-to-lead-yahoo/> ().
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