Tuesday, April 26, 2011
On the 49ers' surprise front-office hiring
By Mike Sando
Gideon Yu's hiring by the San Francisco 49ers brightens the team's prospects for building a new stadium and enjoying it upon completion.
That seems like a reasonable read on the situation given Yu's background.
Yu, hired Tuesday as chief strategy officer, owns one of the more impressive résumés in the NFL or anywhere. He has been chief financial officer for Facebook and YouTube, senior vice president and treasurer of Yahoo! and a general partner at Khosla Ventures. He owns degrees from Stanford and Harvard, and has also worked for Disney and Hilton.
So, why would someone of Yu's stature become chief strategy officer for an NFL franchise?
Nothing against chief strategy officers, but when you've brokered deals worth more than NFL franchise are worth, as Yu has done, this sort of job seems a little ordinary. Tim Kawakami raised questions along these lines Tuesday and wondered whether the move signaled desperation mode for the 49ers on the stadium front.
Answering that question cannot explain the hiring from Yu's perspective. He appears to be a football fan, which helps. He has obvious ties to the Bay Area. He earned an MBA from Harvard and graduated from Stanford, where 49ers chief operating officer Paraag Marathe earned an MBA. Yu has also known team president Jed York for some time. They serve together on the board for Tipping Point, a charity that fights poverty in the Bay Area. Note: I updated information on Yu's educational background.
According to the 49ers, Yu will be "responsible for maximizing the team’s strategic and business prospects, as well as developing new businesses and revenue streams." Yu will also oversee the 49ers' information technology and special-projects departments as well, an indication we should expect changes to the team website, approach to social networking, etc.
The 49ers said they expect Yu to play a leading role in the Santa Clara stadium project, and in making sure a new stadium has all the latest technological amenities.