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In-House Hires at Yahoo Show Sunnier Outlook
The outlook for Yahoo Inc. or at least its legal department seems a bit brighter these days. Since ex-Googler Marissa Mayer took over as CEO last July, the company's shares have steadily risen nearly 56 percent, to more than $24, the highest price since June 2008.
The rising tide seems to be permeating the legal department. Earlier this week, it welcomed back lobbyist William Ashworth, who returned to the Sunnyvale-based search company's Washington, D.C., office after an eight-month sojourn at Google Inc. Before his detour, he'd been with Yahoo for seven years as senior director of state government affairs, spearheading the company's state lobbying efforts. He confirmed the move but declined to comment further. A Yahoo spokeswoman said the company was thrilled to have him back.
Just as Ashworth was coming back into the fold, Yahoo scored another coup, bringing over Tekedra Mawakana from AOL Inc. as deputy general counsel and vice president of global public policy. Mawakana replaces David Hantman, who took a similar position at Airbnb Inc. She, too, is working from the D.C. office.
Mayer has also made a number of key hires outside the legal department, including new chief financial officer Ken Goldman, who was previously at network security company Fortinet Inc., and chief operating officer Henrique De Castro, who was previously president of global media, mobile and platforms at Google.
To be sure, the heavily documented troubles at Yahoo its had seven CEOs over the past five years, plus a failed sale to Microsoft Corp. have left a mark on the legal department.
Current general counsel Ronald Bell, who has been in the legal department since 1999, was tapped by Mayer for the top job after Michael Callahan left in June.
According to LinkedIn, other departures since the start of last year include Emily Hancock, a senior legal director and law enforcement liaison who left in August after seven years. She joined Evernote Corp., which makes a notetaking app. Yanira Gonzalez Wong left last August for Zynga Inc. after six years at Yahoo that included corporate governance and securities work. Joshua Smith, the former senior legal director for privacy, left in February 2012 to take a similar position at Facebook.
According to Yahoo's website it has three open attorney positions, including spots handling intellectual property and mergers and acquisitions.
One attorney who left the company late last year said many of those who recently left had been there a while dealing with a series of stressful issues and chose to leave in a moment of calm.
"The assumption is that Marissa [Mayer] is there for the long haul and the board will let her succeed or fail on her own," the attorney said, and that's provided a level of stability to the entire company. Mayer was named CEO of Yahoo last July, after spending more than 13 years at Google.
"The last five years were tough. The takeover battles and CEO changes had a big impact on morale," the attorney said. He called Yahoo underappreciated, and said the hires of Mawakana and Ashworth show it can still attract talent.
A second attorney, who was laid off just prior to Mayer's arrival as part of a companywide downsizing, said colleagues who remained after the layoffs are not looking to leave. "They have faith in Marissa's ability to turn the company around," that lawyer said, adding "whatever the flaws of the company, the legal department is generally a great place to work."
This article originally appeared in The Recorder.