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ALL THINGS DIGITAL: New Yahoo CEO's Plan: Back to the Future

(This story has been posted on All Things Digital, a website owned by Dow Jones.) By Peter Kafka Of ALL THINGS DIGITAL Ross Levinsohn wants to be known as more than a deal guy. Now he gets his chance. Assuming Yahoo gives its interim CEO real power--either by making him its actual CEO, or at least letting him behave as if he has the job--then he'll finally have full control of a giant media company. That's something he's been working toward for a long time, despite his rep as a guy who enjoys buying companies more than running them. Just like his predecessors, Levinsohn will have to untie Yahoo's knotty Asian problem. He'll also have to spend time repairing relationships with Facebook and figuring out what to do with a Microsoft search deal that hasn't been a huge success. But if Levinsohn gets to run Yahoo the way he wants to run Yahoo, he'll focus on getting the most of its media business, because that's his strength. Bear in mind that this is still a huge business--the portal attracts some 700 million visitors a month, which helped it generate nearly $1 billion in ad sales last quarter. But that business is listing and under attack from Google, Facebook and a swarm of nimble start-ups pulling eyeballs and dollars away. If you want to get a sense of what Levinsohn may try to do next, it's good to review what he did last year, when he had control of the company's U.S. operations--and what he tried to do but couldn't get done. --Ads: Yahoo used to have one of the Web's best sales operations, but those days are long gone. Levinsohn spent much of 2011 trying to fix that. Part of that involved restaffing his team, and part of it was a strategy that was supposed to cut out some of the ad tech middlemen and allow the company to increase its yield on the ads it sold. Those moves, which included a would-be alliance between Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft, all went into a holding pattern when Scott Thompson took over in January. Levinsohn will try restarting that again now. --M&A: Levinsohn has a reputation as a dealmaker because he's made some pretty big deals. Most notably, he brought MySpace to News Corp. in 2005, then helped the company secure a $900 million ad deal with Google (News Corp. also owns the All Things Digital web site and this newswire). Last year he tried to land another big fish, when he pushed to pursue Hulu. But Levinsohn couldn't get buy-in from then-CEO Carol Bartz, and Hulu's owners decided not to sell after all. I think Levinsohn would still be interested in the site, under certain conditions, but he'd need more cash than he has on hand to do it. Selling off his Asian assets might make that possible. If he can't land Hulu, I don't see him chasing after Instagram-like companies with big price tags and no near-term revenue plans. I do see him making some plays on cheaper start-ups, as well as some technology plays, to shore up/replace the company's very old infrastructure/platforms. -For continuously updated news from All Things Digital, see http://allthingsd.com.

Stock News for Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO)
DateTimeHeadline
10/27/201411:55:18TECH STOCKS: Twitter, GoPro Among Tech Stocks In The Red
10/23/201408:05:36Yahoo Set to Deliver an Alibaba Tax Shield -- Barron's
10/22/201416:54:22MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Wither; S&P 500 Ends 4-day Win Steak
10/22/201414:09:09MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Give Up Gains; Boeing Drags Dow
10/22/201410:15:27MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Tick Up; Yahoo Rallies
10/22/201409:51:50U.S. Hot Stocks: Hot Stocks to Watch
10/22/201409:20:52U.S. Stock Futures Hover Near Even
10/22/201409:06:36MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks: Futures Waver, But Boeing Gains...
10/22/201408:37:00MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Jump; Nasdaq Enjoys Best Day In...
10/22/201405:46:19MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks: Futures Dip; Boeing Results, Inflation...
10/21/201417:24:50MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Rally; S&P 500 Above Key Level
10/21/201417:17:36TECH STOCKS: Apple Leads Broad Tech Push North
10/21/201417:13:32MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Gain; Apple Rallies On Results
10/21/201417:11:30MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks: Futures Gain; ECB Plays Down Stimulus...
10/21/201417:01:16MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks: Futures Gain As Apple Climbs, ECB...
10/21/201409:38:25MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks: Nasdaq Futures Up After Apple...
10/20/201419:28:51Yahoo's Ad Sales May Keep Shrinking -- Earnings Preview
10/19/201405:47:20MARKET SNAPSHOT: More Than 1/3 of Dow Stocks To Report This Week
10/13/201416:41:11TECH STOCKS: Tech Stocks Fall In Late Trading
10/13/201413:12:12TECH STOCKS: Apple Gains Lift Tech; GoPro Shares Slide

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