Silicon Valley vet Carol Bartz to replace Yang

Yahoo has found its new top executive — Autodesk exec chair Carol Bartz — and will lose its No. 2 exec in the process.

Prexy Sue Decker, a candidate for the CEO slot, told the Netco’s board that she would resign after being passed over for the job.

Bartz’s selection ends a two-month search that saw myriad candidate names floated in the tech press. Co-founder Jerry Yang triggered the search in November, when he agreed to step down as CEO, a position he assumed when Terry Semel ankled in 2007.

Bartz, 60, has a rep as a tough Silicon Valley exec, which could be exactly what Yahoo needs. Last year was especially trying for the Netco, which came up empty-handed when deals with Microsoft and Google both collapsed and weathered a series of exec defections as its stock price faded.

Yahoo chair Roy Bostock said that Bartz had “the exact combination of seasoned technology executive and savvy leader that the board was looking for, and he cited her “firm understanding of the challenges facing our industry.”

During a conference call with analysts Tuesday afternoon, Bartz acknowledged that the company has taken its knocks during the past year but promised the company was going to “kick some butt.”

However, she declined to discuss whether the company would seek a search deal or dispose of certain assets, calling it presumptuous to do so on her first day.

Her appointment could set the stage for renewed discussions with Microsoft or Time Warner’s struggling AOL unit. Microsoft topper Steve Ballmer had been reluctant to deal with Yang because he rebuffed several previous overtures, including a $47.5 billion offer to buy Yahoo in its entirety in May.

Microsoft subsequently withdrew that bid, valued at $33 per share, and now Yahoo’s stock price hovers around $12. An outsourcing deal with Google unraveled in November after federal antitrust regulators threatened to block the deal.

Bartz is taking on a bigger company with Yahoo, which generates annual revenue of about $7 billion and has a workforce nearly double that of Autodesk.

However, Bartz gets high marks for her track record at Autodesk, a software firm she helped diversify as chief exec from 1992-2006. Autodesk software is used to create film and TV special effects and animation.

Prior to Autodesk, Bartz spent nine years at Sun Microsystems, where she eventually became the No. 2 executive behind the server maker’s then-CEO, Scott McNealy. She also has worked at Digital Equipment Corp. and 3M.

However, she does not have any experience in advertising — the primary source of Yahoo’s income.

With Bartz’s arrival, Yang will revert to his titular role of “chief Yahoo.” He also lauded her selection, calling her “the ideal person to take Yahoo forward” and pledged his assistance “in any way she finds helpful.”

Yahoo shares fell 12¢ Tuesday to close at $12.10, then recovered 15¢ in extended trading. The Wall Street Journal broke the news of the selection early in the day, but Yahoo did not confirm it until market close.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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