This will be my last Saturday column — after nearly 8 years as editor-in-chief, I am leaving Yahoo Finance. And the time feels right to be moving on.
Before turning to my time at Yahoo Finance and what the future might hold for the company (and myself), what I’d like to do is take a look back at the last year.
Goodbye to 2022
Let’s start by acknowledging that 2022 was a weird one for investors, with the S&P 500 hitting a record high and high for the year on January 3rd, the first trading day of the year.
Which makes 2022 the first year since 1977 the S&P 500 hit its high watermark for the year on day one, and the first time ever that high for the year also marked a record high for the index.
After that, well, it wasn’t a crash so much as the beginning of a long, slow collapse, particularly for tech stocks and the more speculative parts of the market that made buying stocks seem so fun back in 2021.
With stocks swooning as we headed into the summer, crypto had decamped for its latest “crypto winter.” By the time fall came around in the Northern Hemisphere, it was looking more like an Ice Age for crypto, exacerbated by the Sam Bankman-Fried scandal.
Which brings me to something else I observed in 2022 — a reminder that so many lessons are learned over and over again. It’s a painful process for investors, but one which benefits people in my line of work.
In 2022, Elon Musk, SBF, and the employees of Warner Bros. Discovery were all taught that leverage can 1) make you act like a wingnut, 2) make you allegedly commit massive fraud, or 3) get you fired en masse, respectively. To paraphrase the great sage Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until too much debt punches them in the mouth.
Another notable development in 2022 is that it appears we are in the throes of a new cycle resetting interest rates higher.
I’ve tried to explain what this might mean to you, our audience, and to the Yahoo Finance team, but it’s a difficult concept to wrap your brain around unless you’ve experienced an extended period of rising rates. A concept made more challenging because U.S. investors have lived through one long, extended decline in interest rates since 1982.
Rising rates are bad for stocks, which is why the market went nowhere from 1966 to 1982. I’m not saying we’ll have a 16-year sideways market, but it makes sense to understand why we might.
Right now, most of Wall Street thinks Fed chair Jay Powell didn’t attack inflation early enough and is now playing catch up, which, to continue the conventional wisdom narrative, is certain to tank the economy next year.
I’m not so sure. Why? Because I’ve seen enough rodeos to know that 1) no one can ever predict these things, and 2) one thing everyone loves to do is beat up the Fed chair.
Paul Volcker, who ran the Fed and whipped inflation back in the early 1980s, is now held up as a sainted seer, but I can assure you that is very much with the hindsight of history. I clearly remember the howling when Volcker was doing the hard work of raising rates to the roof to beat down inflation. And I remember asking him years later what people thought of his actions then. “I was pilloried,” he told me.
Goodbye to Yahoo
Now turning to Yahoo. I went back and looked at the first piece I wrote for Yahoo in early 2015, which was about the 20th anniversary of the company. I remember ringing the opening bell on that occasion at the NASDAQ with my-then colleague Katie Couric.
In the piece, I wrote: “Company years are actually not that different from human years…So Yahoo at 20 maybe resembles a young person in his or her sophomore or junior year of college. There’s energy and potential and, yes, some growing pains.”
I pointed out that having, “…had seven CEOs over the past eight years (Semel, Yang, Bartz, Morse, Thompson, Levinsohn, and now Mayer),” hadn’t helped matters.
Yahoo today is almost 28 years old. During the subsequent eight years, we’ve had four CEOs; Marissa Mayer, Tim Armstrong, Guru Gowrappan, and now Jim Lanzone. That’s better, but maybe still too much turnover.
In the same time period Yahoo also went from being an independent public company to a subsidiary of Verizon to its current status as a portfolio company of private equity giant Apollo.
Maybe Yahoo, done with college a while back, is like an old Gen Z-er coming to grips with, gulp, turning 30. Lots to figure out, right?
One thing I’ve come to realize is that all kinds of folks have worked at Yahoo. Besides those mentioned above, there’s also Jeff Weiner, Caterina Fake, Stewart Butterfield, Dave Goldberg, Jerry Yang, Brad Garlinghouse, Dan Rosenzwieg, Sue Decker, and Max Levchin (if board members count), as well as journalists like David Pogue, Sam Ro, Lisa Belkin, Mike Santoli, and Adrian Wojnarowski. And there are dozens more. And now you can add me to the list.
Leaving Yahoo also got me thinking about a goodbye piece I did when I left my job as editor of Fortune in 2014. In that column I wrote about a few things I learned about the business which I think still resonate today:
That you have to balance the idea that nothing really changes with the notion that everything is changing fast—especially the ever-evolving Internet of everything, the biggest change-agent to hit the global economy in our lifetimes. While Facebook, Spotify, Uber, Yelp, and the like—which many of us use multiple times every week, if not every day—are completely new, really cool, and producing all kinds of au courant lessons and rules, it doesn’t give anyone a license to engage in illegal, conflicted, or amoral behavior “in the name of the revolution.” If they do, journalists should call them out on it.
That with so much information available so easily to so many, hard-nosed reporting and critical thinking become more important than ever.
That Watson, HAL, and all the artificial intelligence in the world will never replicate the most important human decision-making, or if the computers ever do, we will have already been taken over by machines, à la some sort of Will Smith movie. (By the way, I’ve always loved the phrase “artificial intelligence.” I know a few people… Oh, never mind!)
I also wrote about the importance of a company’s culture which was sort of my take on Peter Drucker’s famous line: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” which I agree with wholeheartedly.
That doesn’t mean you can be strategy-less—which is like being rudderless—but you have to try to create a work environment where not only everyone is rowing in the same direction, but is also happy and fulfilled. Yes really. And that takes real work.
I also wanted to mention a few things that made me grateful during my time at Yahoo Finance — streaming Warren Buffett’s annual meeting, building out our live shows, and seeing the recognition and awards our reporters and producers garnered. It’s also been a kick doing these columns and my Influencers interview series, both of which I was only able to do with a great deal of help. Mostly though, I will remember all the super-talented people whom I worked with at Yahoo Finance. What an incredible group!
Now under the leadership of Jim Lanzone, Tapan Bhat, and John Marcom I see even greater things ahead for Yahoo Finance—and for you, our audience.
As for me going forward, it’s simple. I will continue to follow the markets, the economy, and society writ large. There’s just too much going on not to.
As the man says, stay thirsty my friends.
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