Yahoo! raids AltaVista for head of marketing

Yahoo! UK & Ireland has poached AltaVista International marketing director Karl Gregory as head of marketing for its new search engine division, as it gears up to launch a raft of local search products.

Yahoo! UK & Ireland has poached AltaVista International marketing director Karl Gregory as head of marketing for its new search engine division, as it gears up to launch a raft of local search products.

AltaVista is part of search engine giant Overture, which is in turn owned by Yahoo! – but the companies are run separately.

Gregory will report to newly appointed director of search Salim Mitha, who joins from Merrill Lynch where he was an investment banker in the telecoms, media and technology division.

At AltaVista, Gregory was responsible for rebranding and relaunching the brand as a search engine rather than a portal. He started his career on the media agency side, working at Ogilvy & Mather and then later at MindShare, where he handled new media and the internet for Ford in Europe. He then became a digital marketing consultant, working for clients including Volvo, Nestlé and Kimberly-Clark.

AltaVista was a pioneer of internet search services, and at the height of the dot-com bubble was worth an estimated $3bn (£1.6bn). After the crash its value plummeted, until it was bought by Overture in February 2003 for £89m, as part of Overture’s plans to beef up its services to provide a strong alternative to Google. In the same week, Overture paid £64m for the Web search division of Norwegian internet company Fast.

Overture had been the market leader in commercial search – where advertisers pay to be listed in search engine indexes – while Google had become dominant in free search listings. But Google’s entry into the paid search business changed the dynamics of the industry, forcing Overture to react. In July 2003, however, the issue was further complicated when Yahoo! bought Overture for £1bn.

The market is set for further upheaval in early 2005, when MSN officially launches its search service, currently in beta test. The launch will be backed with a multi-million dollar global advertising campaign. Microsoft has already invested $100m (£54m) in developing its proprietary search service.

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