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Quick-Draw CEO at Yahoo

Scott Thompson to make his earnings call debut. Is he ready for Wall Street and Mad Ave?

Scott Thompson | Illustration: Gluekit; Thompson: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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For his sake, newly minted Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson better be a quick study. The former PayPal chief is expected to make his debut during the company’s earnings call Tuesday, just two weeks after taking over the reins and a week after co-founder Jerry Yang’s resignation.

When the company announced his appointment at the beginning of the month, Thompson talked to analysts but deflected more substantive questions about Yahoo’s business. This week, however, Wall Street and Madison Avenue will want more nuanced answers, if not the hints of a vision.

“It would be helpful for Yahoo, and for their investors, for him to at least lay out the skeleton of what are the big issues he plans on tackling,” said Adam Kasper, evp of digital investments at Havas’ Media Contacts.

Others have even higher expectations. “Three weeks ago, he didn’t have a point of view on Yahoo’s chief revenue source, display advertising. He’s got to have a point of view, even if it’s a remedial one, at this stage,” said Chris Copeland, CEO of GroupM Search. “I don’t think he gets a pass three weeks in.”

Thompson would also benefit from showing he’s aligned himself with two “established lieutenants” at Yahoo: Ross Levinsohn, evp of the Americas region, and Blake Irving, chief product officer. Levinsohn, especially, said Copeland, is seen by the ad community as critical to Yahoo’s turnaround. Indicating internal support may be even more important given last week’s news that Seth Dallaire, one of the company’s top ad sales brass, is leaving for Amazon.

“Hearing from him that … strong vision and leadership [are] in place, and [that] it’s his job to clear the path for it to come to fruition, that’s important,” Copeland added.

Sameet Sinha, an analyst at B. Riley, said that while Wall Street may have preferred a CEO with more advertising or media chops, Thompson still has valuable management and tech strengths. Sinha said he’ll be listening for Thompson to identify Yahoo’s biggest missteps and opportunities. “[That] will give us confidence even if he doesn’t know the industry well,” he said.

While he doesn’t expect much detail on it, Sinha said he also hopes for guidance on what’s happening with Yahoo’s Asian assets, specifically the Alibaba Group.

Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Partners, said it’s too soon for Thompson to share his plans for change. But given the ever-increasing competition in online advertising, he cautioned that “whatever Scott does, he’s got to do it fast.