Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

It’s Official: Yahoo Search Exec Suchter to Microsoft

Yesterday, based on sources, BoomTown reported, that Yahoo search exec Sean Suchter was headed to Microsoft.

Now it’s official. Here’s a Microsoft (MSFT) statement on the hiring of Suchter (pictured here), an important tech leader at Yahoo (YHOO), from Satya Nadella, SVP for Search, Portal and Advertising:

“We are very pleased to confirm that Sean Suchter will be joining Microsoft as the GM of our Silicon Valley Search Technology Center, working on Live Search. Sean will report into Harry Shum when he starts work on December 22. We look forward to welcoming him to Microsoft at that time.”

The talent grab from Yahoo is an interesting one, given that Microsoft has also tried to to buy Yahoo’s search and search ad business many times, to little success.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reiterated that desire yesterday at the software giant’s annual meeting, although he discounted the possibility that Microsoft would rebid for all of Yahoo after it abandoned a takeover attempt earlier this year.

His statement sent Yahoo’s stock further into the basement.

Losing important execs like Suchter, who was the VP of Search Technology at Yahoo, will also not help the company’s prospects. Suchter was deeply involved in Yahoo’s efforts to open up its search platform, initiatives the company has touted aggressively as a bright spot in its not-so-lustrous landscape.

Suchter–who came to Yahoo almost six years ago after it acquired Inktomi (the company that got Yahoo into the search business) in early 2003–has been talking with Microsoft for a while and his leaving was not linked to this week’s announcement that Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang will be stepping down.

But it could be linked to the possibility that another former major Yahoo search exec could also be going to Microsoft. I wrote a post earlier today that I thought the Ballmer was looking at Qi Lu–the well-regarded Search and Advertising Technology group EVP at Yahoo, who left earlier this year–to be its digital head.

All this muscling up in search by Microsoft is troubling for Yahoo. There are big questions, now that Yang is stepping down, whether Yahoo will stay in the search business or sell it off. Yang has been a big proponent of doubling down in search, considering it integral to the entire Yahoo ecosystem.

But others make the very persuasive argument that Yahoo will be increasingly outspent by both Google (GOOG) and Microsoft, in what is turning into a very vicious and expensive arms race.

If it sold off its No. 2 search business to Microsoft–ironically, Yahoo used to deliver Microsoft’s search results–many think it could have huge costs savings and garner guaranteed revenues.

News of Suchter’s departure from Yahoo, including the internal memo announcing it, appeared in Valleywag yesterday.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.