Report: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer blew ‘truce’ with activist investor Starboard Value

Like a paramedic who keeps pumping a patient’s chest long after vital signs have vanished, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer struggled in vain to revive the firm even though it was little more than a cold, stiff corpse.

That’s the suggestion of a Wall Street Journal article the paper said is based on more than two dozen interviews with current and former employees, investors and people who worked closely with Mayer. Yahoo is currently for sale, with final bids expected in July.

Mayer, 41, blew her end of the bargain after a secret 2015 truce with activist investor Starboard Value, the WSJ indicated. “Mayer and her executive team agreed to be more mindful about Yahoo’s rising costs. In return, the activist investor, Starboard Value LP CEO Jeffrey Smith, agreed to withdraw his board nominations,” the article said. “She failed to produce the pledged cost savings, plunged even deeper into her turnaround efforts and clung to the idea that she was going to save Yahoo, even when it became clear to insiders and other observers that the company was beyond saving.”

Starboard Value renewed its campaign to put nominees on the Yahoo board, succeeding in April when Yahoo gave in and added Smith and three others.

The article noted that Mayer’s backers and critics acknowledge she was charged with “a nearly impossible mission at Yahoo” and brought “fresh energy and talent to a company many had left for dead.”

“Mayer spent her first two years at Yahoo launching new businesses and acquiring dozens of mobile software startups. Their engineers began building smartphone apps, and she also ramped up investment in web search, a long-neglected area,” the article said.

Mayer has said her work at Yahoo led to an important new revenue stream from mobile ads, which Yahoo had not sold before her arrival.

“Still, the new projects failed to create enough growth to offset Yahoo’s declining business in banner ads. Revenue remained stagnant, and profitability kept shrinking,” the WSJ reported.

Mayer’s “core mistake” was believing she could reinvent the company, a former senior executive who departed Yahoo last year told the paper. “There was an element of her being a true believer when everyone else had stopped.”


Photo: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer, file)


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  • michaelfkelly

    Wasn’t she hired to save Yahoo? I’m on the side of never give up. Good for her.

  • Slick Hillary

    I thought she was a complete loser until a big, fat check showed up in my campaign’s mail box. H-1Bs for everyone! Well, not everyone. Everyone my donors want to bring in from some dump of a country.

  • Tbone

    Marissa was never the sharpest tool in the shed. She had some luck after college getting hired by Google… that’s all. End of story there.

    Yahoo investors were starry eyed suckers for hiring her. They needed someone who could master the Internet, not throw Great Gatsby parties and buy worthless startups.

  • jeffSmith40

    Why would Marissa change her thinking and give up her cushy job that pays her 40 million a year – in other words she has 40 million reasons to continue believing in yahoo’s turn around strategy and continue wearing her Valentino’s gowns and gracing the covers of vogue!