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Yahoo hires investment banker as new CFO

Yahoo Inc. has hired veteran investment banker Blake Jorgensen as its new chief financial officer, an indication that the Internet icon is more interested in expanding through acquisitions than selling to potential suitors like Microsoft Corp.

With the appointment announced Tuesday, Yahoo finally designated a replacement for Susan Decker, who has been the Sunnyvale-based company's CFO for seven years. She is widely viewed as the most likely successor to Yahoo Chairman Terry Semel, who is under increasing pressure to boost the company's recently sagging profits.

Yahoo promoted Decker to oversee the most critical part of its business -- online advertising -- as part of a management shake-up late last year. Decker had continued as CFO while the company searched for a replacement.

Jorgensen, 47, will join Yahoo June 4 after a decade as a top lieutenant for one of Silicon Valley's most prolific dealmakers, Thomas Weisel.

Most recently, Jorgensen was co-director of investment banking for Thomas Weisel Partners Group Inc., where last year he helped increase his division's revenue by 65 percent. He also spent five years as Thomas Weisel Partners' chief operating officer before stepping down from that job in March 2007.

Jorgensen's investment banking background suggests that Yahoo wants more expertise in identifying and negotiating takeovers that will help the company regain its stride and become formidable challenge to online search leader Google Inc., which runs the Internet's largest ad network.

"Any time a company picks an investment banker as its CFO, you have to think some deals might be in the offing," said Jackson Securities analyst Brian Bolan. "These guys are trained to do deals."

Besides crunching the numbers for Yahoo, Jorgensen also will supervise the company's mergers and acquisitions group.

Yahoo didn't disclose the terms of Jorgensen's new contract as CFO.

Dragged down by a decline in profits, Yahoo's stock price is about 30 percent below its early 2006 levels. Yahoo shares fell 41 cents to $28.90 during Tuesday's afternoon trading.

Media reports earlier this month that Microsoft had renewed talks with Yahoo about a possible takeover or alliance temporarily lifted Yahoo shares, but they backtracked when it became apparent that there was no imminent deal.

Both Semel and Decker have promised the company will show improvements during the second half of this year. That optimism is based on a much-anticipated upgrade to a system that chooses which ads to display alongside search results and other content.

In another attempt to expand its market share, Yahoo is buying online ad exchange Right Media Inc. for $680 million. Yahoo sealed that deal after being outbid by Google for online ad distributor DoubleClick Inc., which sold for $3.1 billion.

Google also trumped Yahoo with last year's $1.76 billion acquisition of online video pioneer YouTube Inc.

By MICHAEL LIEDTKE
businessweek.com

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