People hated Carol Bartz for forcing us to consider the technology business as a business
People don't tend to like Carol Bartz, but let's be honest: she milked money from a dying cash cow, exactly like she was supposed to.
Bartz followed Jerry Yang, the company's co-founder, who triumphantly returned to the helm in 2007 and then did nothing to reverse the company's decline. After the Yang experiment, Yahoo's board brought in a CEO with a reputation for making places lean, mean, and profitable. Nothing great happened, but investors fed on the net income while the place burned.
In the ten quarters before Carol Bartz got to Yahoo, the company's net income totaled $1.5 billion. In the ten quarters of her tenure, that number rose to $2.3 billion. That's a 52 percent increase in rough economic conditions and while Yahoo's revenue was falling under competitive pressure from Google and Facebook (among others). Bartz may have never quite figured out what Yahoo was and may have capitulated on its search business, but she made money for the people who hired her.
Carol Bartz was merely the apparatchik brought in to do the dirty work. She was reminder that the technology business is still a business, not just a strange appendage to the TED conference. And even if she'd been as sweet as Reese Witherspoon, people would have hated her.
Yesterday, for her performance, Bartz was unceremoniously fired by telephone and responded by sending her goodbye email from her iPad. What's the lesson? In Silicon Valley, where buzz and excitement drive employees to flock to the Next Little Thing hoping it will become the Next Big Thing, sucking a company dry doesn't work, except for the people drinking the green blood.