Textbook transition for Yahoo! chief Arredondo

Fabiola Arredondo is about to find out exactly what they don’t teach you at the Harvard Business School.

The former merchant banker and trilingual graduate of Stanford University and the Harvard Business School, who spent much of her childhood in Spain and France, has just been appointed managing director of Yahoo! Europe.

Arredondo may have been able to apply her business training to the music and TV industries, where she recently headed the BBC international programme distribution business. But she cheerfully admits that her textbooks could be of little use when it comes to taking command of Yahoo!’s fast-growing European businesses.

“There are no paradigms in the Internet business – there are no clear models to follow. It leaves an enormous opportunity to be creative from a business point of view,” she says.

Arredondo’s decision last June to quit her enviable job at the BBC surprised many in the industry, who had witnessed her rapid rise following a spell in management with the BMG record label, covering the Americas.

As director of international distribution at BBC Worldwide, she was responsible for its television programme licensing and co-production activities worldwide. She was also a member of the BBC Worldwide Executive Board and of the ECM Board, a joint venture with Pearson Group and Cox Communications which had overseen the launch of BBC Prime and BBC World News channels for Europe.

So why did she quit?

“I love working for quality organisations that are fast-paced and decisive. And the BBC is a quality organisation – both in the quality of the organisation itself and the executives,” she says diplomatically. “But it’s not as decisive and fast-paced an organisation as I like to work in.”

It is clear that she still admires the business approach of her former employer and record label BMG which, she says, “was a company that focused on creative small profit centres – by pushing down responsibility and profit centres to the lowest level possible”.

If Arredondo decided that she simply wasn’t the BBC type, she was determined to make sure that her next job was the right one.

“When I left in June, I had several job offers but decided not to take them, because they weren’t places that I wanted to go to,” she says.

She was then approached by head-hunters seeking to replace Heather Killen, who has overseen the launch of Yahoo!’s European businesses since September 1996 and is returning to Yahoo!’s headquarters in the US to take command of all Yahoo! businesses outside of the US.

“I’m a bit of a techno geek and I’ve been using the Internet for about five years,” says Arredondo. “So when I was asked if I was interested in joining Yahoo!, I was excited.”

Arredondo takes over an operation which is now achieving 1 million page views a day across each of its major localised services in the UK, France and Germany, and claims market leadership as a directory and freely available “content aggregator” in these markets.

The company has also recently launched local services in Scandinavia, and versions of Yahoo! tailored to other European countries will continue to be rolled out, says Arredondo. Where Yahoo! already has a presence, it will continue to develop the “breadth and depth” of its service and attempt to maintain leadership in its growing markets.

“It’s enormously competitive in Europe – and some markets will be open to competition from local providers, as well rival localised services developed by our internationally based competitors,” she says. “We are all looking over our shoulders to see what our rivals will do next. It’s not a complacent business. All of us function on a level of paranoia, which is a catalyst for pushing things along.”

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