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The reeds give
way to the
wind and give
the wind away
-- "Small Song" by A.R. Ammons
The venerable Wall Street Journal says that Facebook is looking for a new CFO "with experience at a public company." The Journal thinks it's a sure sign that the social service is planning to go public very soon. But is this reed giving way to the wind -- or giving the wind away?
I agree with the Journal's conclusion, but not necessarily with the logic that supposedly led up to it. If Facebook wants to improve its quotient of experienced executives, the CFO position would be the last place to look.
Gideon Yu, who is leaving the company's top financial post, was the CFO of YouTube when Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) paid $1.65 billion to acquire the Internet's most popular video vault. Not public enough? OK -- Yu also spent a few years at Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) , where he served as treasurer and head of mergers and acquisitions. Under his tenure, Yahoo! bought or invested in more than 30 companies including Inktomi, Overture, Flickr, and Del.icio.us. That was before the YouTube gig.
Gideon's only real competition for the "most public experience" badge among Facebook's executives is Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who was Google's vice president of global sales and operations for seven years and now holds a director's chair at Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) . That's it.
A clash of personalities or of business ideas between Gideon and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a far more likely reason for this departure. Yes, Facebook is probably looking to go public. No, the CFO seat did not need an immediate upgrade in order to get it done.
I hope that Mr. Yu's replacement comes with a solid pedigree. Facebook is at a crossroads where it has to decide which way to go -- IPO and stay single, or shack up with Google or Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) in a tricky merger?
Either way, a steady financial hand is needed because the company has not yet proven that it can convert its massive traffic into respectable revenue and cash flows. A solid fiscal plan would help the market and/or any prospective acquirer place a reasonable price tag on this operation.
The reed gives to the wind, it seems. The giving away started long ago.