Yahoo appoints ex-Warner co-chief as CEO

The appointment of Warner veteran Terry Semel marks the beginning of portal's migration to multimedia giant

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By  Greg Wilson Published  April 18, 2001

After a month of speculation, Yahoo has signed up ex-Warner co-chief, Terry Semel to replace outgoing CEO Tim Koogle. The appointment heralds the portal’s migration from Internet player to multimedia mogul.

“Frankly the whole idea of being part of something that was conceived to change the world is too good an opportunity to look away from," Semel said in a conference call about his decision to take up the CEO & chairman position with Yahoo.

The challenges Yahoo faces in finding new sources of revenue are similar to those at Warner Bros. in the early 1980s, Semel said.

"It really doesn't matter if it's a movie or premium service on Yahoo Finance," Semel added. "The services go to the same customers who want the very best. I don't think things are any different on the Internet," added Semel, who helped increase Warner Bros.' revenues from less than $1 billion in 1980 to $11 billion in 1999.

For the past 12 months the Internet portal site has been trying to reduce its dependence on advertising revenues, with the introduction of numerous fee-based content and services for its site. The move to a service-based revenue model comes at a time when falling advertising budgets have already heavily impacted print, broadcast and Internet media companies.

Just this month, Yahoo declared it would offer downloadable music on a subscription basis and a real time stock quote service.

However, to migrate the portal player to multimedia giant is a big challenge, particularly when Semel — himself a 20-year Warner veteran — will now be battling with some of his previous colleagues, at AOL Time Warner.

Semel’s appointment has also gone some way to dispelling lingering acquisition rumours. “It gives me the sense that Yahoo is likely to remain independent for the foreseeable future,” said Gordon Hodge, a research partner with Thomas Weisel, who covers Yahoo.

“I don't think of Terry Semel as a flipper. My sense is he's a builder, and this will be a new opportunity to really create something out of a young, promising global media company.”

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