Coup for Yahoo as it lures former Channel 5 boss to European arm
Yahoo's chief executive Marissa Mayer last night hired one of Britain's leading commercial television executives, Dawn Airey, to run the internet group's European operations.
The 52-year-old's pedigree at Channel 5, ITV and BSkyB was taken as a signal that Ms Mayer is planning on focusing Yahoo's future on building video advertising revenues.
Yahoo has been struggling to find a role for itself in an internet world in which it has been eclipsed by Ms Mayer's former employer, Google, and seen more recent newcomers like Facebook and Twitter rival it for advertisers' dollars.
Ms Airey's most recent role was at the RTL European television group majority-owned by Germany's Bertelsmann, although she left that business in April after five years. The Lancashire-born executive who once described herself as being "tough but with a soft centre" has been nicknamed "scary Airey" and "Zulu Dawn" by staff at her previous companies but she is widely seen as being a smart and respected operator.
Analysts said it was the most significant hire yet of Ms Mayer since she took the chief executive's role a year ago. Industry executives said Ms Airey's decision would be seen as a vote of confidence in the company whose share of global digital advertising spend is expected to shrink to 3.1 per cent from 3.4 per cent by the end of the year, according to analysts eMarketer.
As Ms Airey is acutely aware from her experience at the top of Britain's television industry, advertisers have increasingly been moving from TV to the internet, offering a potential growth avenue for Yahoo.
She said: "To be part of the Yahoo renaissance was simply irresistible for me."
She will replace Rich Riley in the post which has been vacant since he left last April. This year he took the job as chief executive of music website Shazam.
Ms Airey will be fighting for advertising revenues with another high-profile female executive hired this year – Facebook's new European boss Nicola Mendelsohn.
The European, Middle East and Africa division of Yahoo currently employs about 700 staff after a big cull launched last April during a restructuring of the business.
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