Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) Jan. 4 named PayPal President Scott Thompson as CEO, ending months of searching after the struggling media company fired Carl Bartz from the role in September.
Thompson, who was also appointed to Yahoo’s board of directors, will take the helm Jan. 9, when interim CEO Tim Morse will resume his role as CFO.
Thompson has helped PayPal maintain and fortify its position as the top global online payment service since he took over as president in 2008. Under his leadership, PayPal grew its user base from 50 million to more than 104 million active users in 190 countries worldwide, boosting revenues from $1.8 billion to over $4 billion in 2011.
eBay CEO John Donahoe, who was shocked by Thompson’s exit, will take over as president of PayPal for the time being.
The revenue growth Thompson oversaw at PayPal is likely one of the major reasons Yahoo’s board picked him. Yahoo has struggled to boost revenue and bolster user engagement despite enjoying more than 700 million visitors.
“His deep understanding of online businesses combined with his team building and operational capabilities will restore the energy, focus and momentum necessary to grow the core business and deliver increased value for our shareholders,” Yahoo Board Chairman Roy Bostock said in a statement.
Bostock also said Thompson will work with the board on its “strategic review process,” including specific investments or dispositions of assets.
On a press conference call, Thompson praised Yahoo’s existing online media properties and said he would spend his first days at the company getting to know the executive, engineer and product teams, and learning more about the company’s products. He will also work with Yahoo’s sales teams to get a handle on what Yahoo advertisers and publishers need.
“We need to refocus our energies on doing what we do really well,” Thompson said, noting that increasing value for shareholders and revenue growth were his chief concerns. He said building great innovative products for the 700 million-plus unique visitors will ultimately be his charge at Yahoo.
He didn’t provide any clear indication of how he will go about building these great products or improving the company, which has been a familiar refrain from the last few CEOs at the company, including co-founder Jerry Yang and Bartz.
Thompson also declined to comment on how he could help Yahoo better compete in display advertising, which was Yahoo’s bread and butter but has been passed by Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and is seriously threatened by Facebook. He cited the need to learn more about the company before setting out on a path to return the company to glory.
Thompson has a tough job ahead of him. Bartz was let go by Bostock by phone Sept. 6 after serving as CEO for 20 months, replacing Yang.
Bartz and Yang failed to restore Yahoo’s flagging brand after Google soared past the company in search and passed it for the first time in display advertising in late 2011.
Google and Facebook also have cohesive social networks that drive user engagement, though Yahoo has tightly integrated with Facebook to boost traffic.