Lost among the eye-popping headlines about the departure of—and cash being handed to—former Yahoo COO Henrique de Castro was this rather innocuous line in an ice-cold memo from CEO Marissa Mayer:
"I’ve asked Kathy Savitt to lead our media and editorial functions."
That is, until it was announced that Yahoo's editor in chief Jai Singh was leaving the company, per Recode. The obvious speculation was, the editorial guy isn't too pumped to be reporting to the CMO (see Inc., Time). Are more exits coming?
Of course, it's quite possible that Mayer's installation of Savitt over media is temporary. Adweek has already reported that Mayer talked with the likes of former NBCU programming execs Lauren Zalaznick and Scott Sassa. Lately, we've been hearing that Yahoo might bring in both a programming head and a new editor in chief to oversee the company's new slew of media talent, including Katie Couric and David Pogue.
And as Adweek recently reported, Mayer is looking to go big in programming this year—shooting for a big budget, single camera-type buzzy sitcom. You'd think she'd want someone with development experience to shepherd such a project.
One top agency executive called Savitt's new media responsibility "an astonishing decision."
But not so fast. Others who know Savitt call her a highly skilled executive, one who has a strong relationship with Mayer.
"Kathy is an animal. Hard core," said one Hollywood executive.
This person claimed that Savitt had her hands in original programming strategies during her stints at American Eagle, where she was vp and CMO, and at Amazon, where she served as vp of strategic communications, content and initiatives. However, Savitt left Amazon in 2006, well before the company was producing original scripted comedies like Betas.
Prior to joining Yahoo in 2012, Savitt was CEO of Lockerz, a social media-infused shopping site she founded in 2009. "She's a marketer, not a programmer," said one industry executive who's done business with Savitt.
As for editorial experience, here's where Savitt's resume may make sense—or frighten many journalists. Turns out she founded her own PR firm, MWW/Savitt, in her late 20s. So she's worked with reporters before.
Meanwhile, beside Savitt's next moves in media, there's the matter of Yahoo's sales group post de Castro. Many wonder whether the company needs to finally bring in a brand-oriented, big ideas sales chief, considering that de Castro's undoing was driven in large part by frayed relations with ad agencies. Yet others believe that Ned Brody, whom Mayer brought in from AOL after a prolonged fight, will get a lot of leeway early on.
Though many note that Brody's roots are in programmatic advertising (he once ran AOL's Ad.com business), Yahoo likely does not want to conduct a vast public search. According to a source, Yahoo is in damage control mode and is not reaching out to recruiters to find a sales chief. "That's probably very good news for Ned."
And then there's the last big question for Mayer and company. Does she want or need another COO? They tend to be expensive.