Strife at Yahoo: Board Plays Coy, But Mayer Forges On

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Yahoo has never really recovered its initial dot-com glory. Now, the company is faltering and ready to be stripped for parts. Yet somehow, against all odds, counsel, and expectation, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer wants to press on—but Yahoo’s board may undermine her with a bid to sell the Silicon Valley-based company.

After Yahoo’s lackluster Q4 report came out earlier this week, the company was widely expected to put itself on the auction block. According to rumors and speculation, Microsoft, Verizon, and private equity firms could all be looking at a potential buy.

Now, everyone talking about Yahoo’s sale is focused on one source: Yahoo’s chairman of the board Maynard Webb’s recent statement. Webb, in his Q4 statement, said, “The Board…believes that exploring additional strategic alternatives, in parallel to the execution of the management plan, is in the best interest of our shareholders…we will engage on qualified strategic proposals.”

Analysts are suggesting that Webb’s “strategic proposals” are chairman-speak for “we’re holding an open house.” It wouldn’t be the first time the board has wanted to sell the company. Before Mayer took the helm, the option was heavily considered by investors and the board.

But Mayer is making incredibly bold moves in an effort to prove Yahoo’s current worth. She sees the future differently. She imagines a stripped down Yahoo. Spin off the baggage, lighten the ship, she says, and Yahoo will sail on.

That’s why she’s proposed such an aggressive strategy for the upcoming year. Mayer will lay off 15 percent of Yahoo’s workforce, close five international offices, and tighten operations. She’ll also spin off some of Yahoo’s services that have failed to catch the cultural eye, including Yahoo Games and Yahoo Smart TV. Yahoo’s digital magazines will also take a hit as several titles are consolidated.

Realistically, Yahoo will probably be forced to sell. It’s hard to imagine the company pulling itself out of the quicksand. But Mayer is a successful and extremely competent CEO; her vision may be possible, even if the board is ultimately unwilling to see it through. 




Edited by Maurice Nagle
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