October 20, 2011, 10:47 AM — Maybe he was just being polite, since he was speaking at a high-profile tech conference and all, but you have to wonder what Google vice president Bradley Horowitz was thinking when he told an All Things D audience in Hong Kong on Thursday that his former employer, Yahoo, is doing just swell.
(Also see: Yahoo was done in by arrogance)
Here's what Horowitz, who is product manager for the search giant's Google+ social networking platform, said, according to Bloomberg:
On Yahoo’s business:
“The company is actually quite healthy. It’s not on the ropes, it’s not as if they don’t have traffic. They have number one sites in many categories.”
“What’s missing is relevance. Why would the most talented people in the world go to Yahoo right now given the churn and challenges they have?”
Horowitz is correct, in a very narrow sense. Yahoo remains profitable and its global traffic trails that of only Google, Facebook and YouTube.
But, c'mon. Despite its massive audience, Yahoo has been unable to grow revenue since 2008, and actually has been losing revenue since then, during a time when Google and Facebook have been generating impressive sales gains.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: It's relatively easy to turn a profit when all you do is cut, cut, cut. That's what hack CEOs do. Good CEOs grow a business, and Yahoo's business hasn't been growing.
I don't even totally blame recently departed CEO Carol Bartz. She inherited a lot of long-standing problems in this "quite healthy" company, much of which were caused by previous clueless chief executives and a seemingly incompetent board.
Revenue growth is one of the three lifebloods of a truly healthy company. Another is innovation. The third -- and this relates directly to innovation -- is the ability to attract talent. Horowitz himself implies that Yahoo can't do that anymore. If anything, Yahoo is suffering from a talent exodus.
Maybe these quotes were taken out of context. Maybe Horowitz said other things that better reflected the reality that this "quite healthy" company, which is desperately seeking a buyer and has lost investor confidence, indeed is "on the ropes."
But if Horowitz literally meant what he said in the comments quoted by Bloomberg, let's be grateful he didn't go into the medical profession.