It will be interesting to see how Terry Semel reacts to Brad Garlinghouse’s “peanut butter manifesto,” which was essentially open letter accusing Terry of incompetence. Garlinghouse took pains to note that Yahoo’s problems come “straight from the top.” He also obviously either leaked the memo himself or knew that it would be leaked (little difference). Regardless of what happens, Yahoo shareholders should thank him.
According to the Journal, Yahoo! COO Dan Rosenzweig has embraced the memo–sort of. Specifically, he has assembled a task force to look into Garlinghouse’s observations “over two months.” Given that most of the complaints/recommendations can be grasped in 0.2 seconds, this two-month-rumination period seems an example of exactly what Garlinghouse is complaining about. It is also probably a way for Rosenzweig to hedge his bets (protect reputation with troops by listening, protect job by not jumping wholeheartedly on board). No word from Terry, as yet, but he will have to respond, if only internally.
How aggressive a move was this? Imagine if one of Sumner Redstone’s senior lieutenants had written the same memo, suggesting that the company’s problems come “straight from the top.” There might be something left of him in the morning, but not much.
In any case, the Garlinghouse attack demonstrated exactly what Yahoo desperately needs more of: 20/20 vision, passion, and balls. Garlinghouse is right: Yahoo has amazing assets. And he’s also right that the company has gotten fat and lazy. Whether Garlinghouse survives his own grenade blast remains to be seen, but he’s done the rest of the company (and its shareholders) a favor.