Is Jerry Yang The Next Steve Jobs?

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I just saw the news that Terry Semel has stepped down and Jerry Yang is taking over as CEO of Yahoo!

As a longtime Yahoo! fan, I see this as good news. Jerry is smart and connected to the medium in the way that Terry never was. I think Terry did a good job turning Yahoo! around in the aftermath of the Internet bubble and making decisions like buying Overture and focusing on both search and display advertising.

The question is whether Jerry and Sue Decker, who was named President, will be focused on the long term or if the Jerry/Sue team is a caretaker management team focused on finding the right strategic partnership for the Company.

It’s clear that Yahoo! is seen as a value play by most Internet investors, particularly with its large holdings in Yahoo! Japan. It would be pretty easy for Jerry and Sue to focus on getting a deal at $40 to $50/share and claiming victory.

But if Jerry really wants to do a Steve Jobs and turn Yahoo! around and build something much bigger, I think he can do it. But that’s going to require making some hard decisions that won’t be easy to execute.

I really hope that the latter scenario plays out because right now Google is killing it (like Microsoft did in the late 80s/early 90s) and we really could use a counterweight and Yahoo! is the obvious choice.