Yahoo’s False Prophet: How Marissa Mayer Failed to Turn the Company Around

Marissa Mayer Yahoo Variety
Marco Ventura for Variety

Marissa Mayer has sat behind the wheel at Yahoo for nearly four years. She has had the luxury of running one of the world’s most recognized internet brands, with a surging digital ad market, a cooperative board, a truckload of cash and 1 billion monthly visitors. And still she has failed to turn things around at the beleaguered company.

“Befuddlement is the best way I could characterize Marissa Mayer’s hire,” says Brian Wieser, senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group, of the onetime Google wunderkind’s arrival at Yahoo in July 2012. “Sure, you had someone who understood consumer use of digital media — but no core experience with Yahoo’s business, which was generating ad revenue from Madison Avenue.”

Marco Ventura for Variety

Mayer, who will be 41 on May 30, now faces the prospect of the firm she was hired to save being sold off, and the possibility of being booted from her job. She has been largely protected from Wall Street’s wrath by the surge in value from Yahoo’s Alibaba Group holdings (although she had nothing to do with those gains). But as Yahoo’s finances have continued to deteriorate, it has become apparent that Mayer has wasted time and money with a lack of cohesive vision and a mercurial micromanagement style that paralyzed growth opportunities, according to former employees and industry execs.

As one shareholder wonders: “What the f— has Marissa Mayer been doing for the last three-plus years?”

When Yahoo hired Mayer, the company was in a position to become a real player in social media, and to blossom into a much bigger digital-media property that could leverage increased revenue from its huge audience. Instead, Mayer spent $1 billion on blogging startup Tumblr, which three years later hasn’t produced any meaningful revenue, while unilaterally abandoning an array of content initiatives.

In turn, she has doubled down on search, which Yahoo is fueling with pricey paid-traffic deals with two of its biggest rivals, 
Microsoft and Google. But prior to Mayer deciding it was critical to Yahoo’s future, web search hadn’t been a strength since the company’s earliest days. “Let’s not be hyperbolic: The use case was literally accidental searches on the homepage,” says a former Yahoo exec.

Mayer’s interest in beefing up search, according to this source, is because “she has a real chip on her shoulder about getting thrown out of search” at Google. (In 2010, she was demoted by then-CEO Eric Schmidt from her position as Google VP of search products and user experience to a job overseeing local content, maps, and location services.)

“The Yahoo way is, ‘We’ll throw 10 rocks against the wall, and maybe one of them will hit the bull’s-eye. But you need a sniper rifle in this business.”
Rich Tullo, analyst

Now Yahoo investors waiting for Mayer’s turnaround miracle to materialize have thrown up their hands. Activist/investor Starboard Value — exasperated at the lack of progress on Mayer’s watch — threatened to oust the CEO and the current board by nominating its own slate of directors. Last month, Yahoo averted a potentially ugly proxy fight with the fund by appointing Starboard chief Jeffrey Smith and three Starboard-backed directors to the board. The shakeup increases the likelihood of a Yahoo sale, given Starboard’s position on the issue. For now, 
Mayer’s job at the company appears safe, but all bets are off if the new board finds a buyer. (In the event she’s fired within a year of an acquisition, Mayer stands to receive a severance package worth about $55 million.)

Mayer, through a rep, declined a request for an interview.

At this point, the task of trying to revive Yahoo will almost certainly fall to an acquirer or a new management team. Earlier this year, the company’s board bowed to pressure to put itself on the block, and Yahoo is reviewing bids from parties including Verizon and several private-equity firms, while billionaire Warren Buffett says he’s willing to back a play for the company by his friend Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans. Verizon, which snapped up AOL for $4.4 billion a year ago, is widely seen as the top candidate among potential strategic buyers, and would almost certainly merge Yahoo and AOL.

A Wall Street Journal report last week said Verizon and other bidders planned to offer between $2 billion and $3 billion for Yahoo — far less than the $8 billion or more the company has been expecting.

So Mayer’s legacy at Yahoo may be as the CEO who drove it into a fire sale. “You’d think Verizon would be interested in it just for their traffic, and fire everybody in a classic strategic-acquirer move to take cost synergies out,” says Brett Harriss, media and entertainment analyst at Gabelli & Co.

No one can accuse Mayer of standing still. Under her leadership, Yahoo has bought some 50 companies for a total of $2.8 billion, per an estimate by investor Eric Jackson of 
SpringOwl Asset Management. Many of those deals are smaller acqui-hires — buys of companies for their staff, not the products they sell — in the mobile space.

Analysts criticize the approach as a scattershot strategy that has failed to move the needle. “The Yahoo way is, ‘We’ll throw 10 rocks against the wall, and maybe one of them will hit the bull’s-eye,’ ” says Rich Tullo, analyst with Albert Fried & Co. “But you need a sniper rifle in this business.”

Marco Ventura for Variety

Mayer has touted growth of Yahoo’s so-called “Mavens” business, comprising mobile, video, native, and social ads. That segment represented $390 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2016, up 7% year-over-year, with mobile ads up 11% to $250 million, and a global mobile audience of 600 million monthly users.

“Over the past three and a half years, we took a company that, despite its rich history, faced legacy revenue declines, and we forged a Yahoo that is stronger and more modern,” Mayer said on the company’s first-quarter earnings call in April.

But so far, Mavens has not stopped the bleeding at Yahoo. The company is projecting 2016 revenue, excluding traffic-acquisition costs, to decline by as much as 17%, to between $3.4 billion and $3.6 billion; and adjusted profits before depreciation, taxes, and amortization to drop by as much as 26%, to $700 million to $800 million.

“Mobile was something Yahoo had to go after,” says Scott Kessler, equity analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence. “The problem is, after all the M&A, people asked, ‘Are these actions really going to enhance the company’s growth profile?’ What became apparent was that they didn’t.”

Both search and display ad revenue for Yahoo will drop by double-digit percentages this year — even as heavyweights like Google and Facebook continue to punch up sales 
in the growing sectors, according to research firm eMarketer.

Tumblr has been a particular disappointment for Yahoo. “It’s a hipster-porn platform, essentially,” says Tullo. “Why isn’t it Pinterest or Instagram?” Tumblr will contribute just $25 million in operating income to Yahoo’s bottom line on $80 million in revenue in 2016, according to analyst firm SunTrust.

Click Image for Large Preview

Reflecting Mayer’s poor track record of deal-making, in the fourth quarter of 2015, Yahoo recorded goodwill impairment charges of $1.2 billion related to acquisitions since 2012. That included a $230 million write-down for Tumblr. Yahoo said in an SEC filing that it is “reasonably possible” it could write down all of the remaining goodwill associated with Tumblr.

One acquisition that does seem to have helped is Yahoo’s $640 million purchase of programmatic video-ad platform BrightRoll in November 2014. Yet that contributed only “incremental revenue” for full-year 2015, the company said in a filing, and Yahoo’s need to enhance its ad-tech capabilities was already long overdue by then.

On the media front, Mayer has simply been out of her depth, insiders say.

She came to Yahoo boasting Silicon Valley chops — she was Google’s first female engineer — but she has never had a real understanding of the media business, they say.

“She believes she can figure it out on her own,” says a former top Yahoo exec. “Her attitude is, ‘I watch TV shows, so I know TV shows.’” Mayer hired Katie Couric — in a deal reportedly worth up to $10 million per year, mostly in stock — because she personally likes the former TV news personality, without a sense of where and how Couric’s brand would appeal to Yahoo’s user base, according to this source.

At first, Mayer was gung-ho on expanding Yahoo’s media business, particularly in video entertainment, approving a Netflix-like slate of scripted original series with a seven-year business plan to recoup the investment (although the company had not yet acquired rights to the content over that time period). Last fall, Yahoo became the first internet outlet to live-stream an NFL game exclusively online, attracting 15 million viewers who watched some portion of it. (It’s unclear what the average audience was for the one-off.)

Even earlier, in 2013, Yahoo was among the bidders for Hulu before that company’s media-conglomerate owners decided not to move forward with the sales process. Yahoo also envisioned competing with Google’s 
YouTube, making a $200 million offer for the French user-generated video site Dailymotion, since acquired by Vivendi. Execs later floated a pitch to YouTube creators — one that never went anywhere — to take their shows exclusively to Yahoo.

The plan at Yahoo was to launch a major standalone video service once content deals hit critical mass. But Mayer bailed on the strategy when the company’s financials kept faltering; continuing on the path would have required Yahoo to invest even more in video without clear near-term payback. “She got enamored with content — but she had zero expertise. And she hired people with even less experience,” says one media exec who has had dealings with Yahoo.

Mayer pitched Yahoo to mobile content developers last year at a company-sponsored confab in San Francisco. Yahoo mobile ads were up 11% in Q1. AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Yahoo formally exited TV-style entertainment in the third quarter of 2015, taking a $42 million write-down on original series, including its revival of “Community,” previously axed by NBC. Also left stranded were Simon Cowell’s live DJ reality-competition series and “The Pursuit,” a twentysomething comedy à la “Friends” from exec producer Scott Stuber, for which it had signed production deals. The company later shut down its Yahoo Screen video division, which was a hub for all its licensed and original video content.

Among the problems with Yahoo Screen was that it delivered a subpar user experience — it was clunky, and users couldn’t easily find what they wanted to watch. Moreover, say industry execs, the company has ineffectively marketed its video lineup, which currently includes live concerts from Live Nation Entertainment (a deal that runs through July 2016).

“Yahoo’s massive audience, which still exists today, gave it a tremendous media opportunity,” says Peter Csathy, CEO of Manatt Digital Media, a business consulting and legal services firm. “They had all this promise, they had all the core assets they needed to succeed — with a great sales force — and it’s no secret that they’ve dropped the ball.”

In another content retrenchment, Yahoo in February folded seven digital magazines, including titles covering food and travel, which had been a Mayer pet project. She wanted to launch dozens of vertically oriented magazines, dictating that they use Tumblr-based designs, hoping to better monetize Yahoo’s monthly audience.


Marissa Mayer Yahoo

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Will Reap $55 Million if She’s Fired Post Sale

Mayer has positioned those closures as a refocusing on Yahoo’s four strongest content segments — news, sports, finance, and lifestyle — as the company aims to cut 15% of its workforce over the course of 2016. But those were the areas on which Yahoo should have stayed laser-focused all along, according to S&P’s Kessler. “They took their eye off the ball when it comes to content,” he says, adding, “It’s amazing how little investment seems to be allocated to Yahoo Finance. The functionality is not very different than it was 10 years ago.”

Yahoo says that under the revamped media strategy, it’s expanding its video production and reach. In the U.S., time spent watching videos on Yahoo in the first quarter climbed 94% year-over-year, according to the company. Video production has increased 54% as the company has shifted from acquiring video to concentrating more on in-house production, says Yahoo editor-in-chief Martha Nelson, the former Time Inc. top editorial exec Mayer hired last fall to oversee content operations.

“Yahoo is doing plenty of original video. We’re just not doing scripted entertainment today,” Nelson says. “We are focusing on our core verticals and our most engaged audiences.”

“Befuddlement is the best way I could characterize Marissa Mayer’s hire. You had someone who understood consumer use of digital media — but no core experience with Yahoo’s business.”
Brian Wieser, analyst

In February, Yahoo video sites attracted 58.2 million unique visitors in the U.S., making it the third most popular video destination after YouTube and Facebook, according to comScore. Yahoo’s live content includes NHL games in a pact that runs through the league’s 2017-18 regular season, and daily webcasts of 180 MLB games this season on Yahoo Sports. It’s also touting Yahoo News video coverage of the 2016 elections. Yahoo has scored three recent interviews with President Obama, conducted by political columnist Matt Bai (formerly with The New York Times), White House reporter Olivier Knox, and Yahoo Finance markets correspondent Nicole Sinclair. “This is the stuff that keeps good journalists excited and motivated,” Nelson points out.

The company says Couric, who is Yahoo News’ global anchor, has grown increasingly popular. Views of her video reports more than doubled in 2015 from the prior year. Couric’s dispatches generated 157 million views in the first quarter of 2016, as she has spoken with almost all of the U.S. presidential candidates.

“Yahoo has a massive audience and the flexibility to do various forms of interviews,” Couric says. “We can ride the campaign bus with John Kasich, walk the streets of New York with the ladies of ‘Broad City,’ or head behind the scenes with the cast of ‘Hamilton.’”

After more than three decades on TV, Couric now finds television “a very passive medium compared to digital,” and says it has been rewarding to delve deep with her Yahoo interview subjects. “Television programming can often be on while you get ready for work or cook dinner. It’s sometimes white noise in the background of a room,” she notes. “Online and mobile video is never really like that — it’s a very active choice to click and watch a video … and we have to work hard to hold their attention and get them to take the action of clicking on our videos.”

Yahoo still has audience scale on its owned-and-operated sites, which makes them potentially attractive advertising partners, according to Jon Hsia, head of digital investment for agency GroupM. But, Hsia says, “there have been significant headwinds against them in the past couple of years … and they’ve had a hard time monetizing what should be pretty dependable content.”

On May 4, Yahoo hosted a private Digital Content NewFronts event at its New York sales office for brand and agency partners — downsized from its party-atmosphere events in years past. This year, chief revenue officer Lisa Utzschneider says, “we believe it’s important to provide our advertisers with less flash and more substance.” In other words, the company wants to convince big brand marketers it is still in the video game — just without the Hollywood ambitions.

Some observers questioned Mayer’s hiring right from the start. She, in turn, has emphasized the major task she faced to turn Yahoo’s fortunes around, especially given the management upheaval at the company; she was the seventh CEO in a little over five years. “I came in, I thought, ‘Wow, this is even harder than we thought it would be,’” Mayer said on “Charlie Rose” in March.

Views of Katie Couric’s video reports have surged, thanks to interviews with the likes of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Courtesy of Yahoo News

But even assuming she had eventually formulated a cohesive, workable strategy to rebuild Yahoo, she is hampered by her tendency to require that virtually all decisions — even small details — be run past her, according to former employees. “Marissa is one of those people who’s always certain she’s right,” says a former Yahoo senior manager. “She would undermine us, change her mind, or make everything go through her at the end of the day. It was a nightmare.”

Says another: “There’s a uniform, recurring theme of bureaucracy in too many layers. Nobody was ever fully empowered.” When she was at Google, Mayer oversaw the approval of each daily homepage “doodle.”

Others say Mayer refuses to admit her failures, a stick-to-her-guns hubris that has made Yahoo slow to correct course when things weren’t working. Asked by Rose about why Yahoo’s series of acquisitions haven’t paid off, she replied, “I actually think they did work. I think that it really was a matter of, we needed to rebuild some of the talent base.” She even defended the Tumblr deal, saying, “Obviously, we have fallen slightly behind where we hoped to be in terms of our plans, but I’m still very optimistic about Tumblr.”

To her credit, Mayer has focused attention on Yahoo’s technology platforms and capabilities around advertising systems, Kessler says. But that only fulfills its potential when you have great content, advertisers, and users. “It’s like you’ve built some great new bridge, but no one uses it,” he says. “Maybe they don’t even know it’s there.”

Martha Nelson, for one, dismisses the chatter surrounding Mayer as something that goes with the territory for a CEO at a high-profile company. “I really admire a lot things about Marissa,” Nelson says about her boss. “She’s obviously bright, super hardworking — she probably works harder than anyone else in the organization. Marissa has devoted herself to transforming Yahoo.”

Fairly or not, Mayer also has been singled out for what detractors see as inappropriately self-indulgent behavior. That includes her infamous August 2013 Vogue photo spread, in which she posed reclining on a chaise lounge and discussed her work attire. “It was a nice photo,” Mayer told Rose after the piece caused a stir. On the company’s February call with investors, she took time to complain about reports alleging that Yahoo paid $450 million on free food for employees over four years and $7 million for a holiday party. “Both numbers are exaggerated by more than a factor of three,” she said, adding, “All of our employee perks are standard for our industry, in line with other companies in our area.”

What happens next? The idea behind the possible Verizon buy is that the telco — which has been amassing a portfolio of digital-media holdings anchored by AOL — would fold Yahoo into a mix headed by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who has had success integrating multiple acquisitions at AOL. And there are other reported bidders for Yahoo, including private-equity firm TPG; a consortium that includes Bain Capital, Vista Equity Partners, and Ross Levinsohn, the media exec who served as Yahoo’s interim CEO for less than three months in 2012 before Mayer was hired; and YP Holdings, the AT&T-backed ad company formerly known as Last week, Buffett said Berkshire Hathaway would be a potential financing partner for Gilbert’s bid, confirming reports of the duo’s interest.

On the earnings call in April, Mayer said the Yahoo board and management is making the sales process a “top priority,” often holding several calls and meetings per day. “We have been responsive and engaging,” she claimed.

Whatever the outcome, one ex-Yahoo senior manager has found the company’s travails difficult to witness. “I don’t feel vindicated,” the exec says. “I just feel sad to watch something that had so much potential in a death spiral.”

*Based on five times multiple of Yahoo’s expected 2016 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization, plus estimated value of Tumblr.
†Excluding discounts related to tax and liquidity issues
Sources: Company reports, SunTrust, Envision IP, S&P Global Market Intelligence, Morgan Stanley

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  1. Doug says:

    Corporate America is just so full of themselves. One needs to be a super ego to be in such a position and to survive it. What quality are the people who survive the trip to the top anyway? Is intelligence and history the only qualifiers? But then you have the super egos serving on the ‘board of directors’ as well. So what can one expect? America needs a revival of ‘absolutes’ not diving blindly into an empty, unproved world of ‘progressive persuasion’ never seen before by the history of humanity. Super intelligence and ‘trending’ just don’t cut it. It never has and never will. Mankind has never solved the worlds’ (corporate) problems with his intelligence or super-personalities but become a problem for the rest of humanity in the way of oppression and bias. We need people of character and wisdom not the present ”smart asses’.

  2. Darla says:

    If Mayer had any honor she wouldn’t take the cash. But she will because she doesn’t.

  3. Azure says:

    I used to trade stocks while in NYC. Yahoo finance was THE best. Ruined long ago. Then the Yahoo homepage (for me finance) was ruined so I and others went to Canada finance. Now ruined. It does not matter that any one comments. These OVER priced CEO’s that ruin a company should not be rewarded for doing so! They ruined the mail, the yahoo toolbar all of what used to be fine and just needed tweeking over time. (background, financial graphics, art, sciences and more) If a site is hard to navigate, layed out UGLY and the basics of design are not adhered to (the eye percieves, the brain sees) and more then it becomes useless.

    Not to mention the security breaches where billions were AGAIN hacked and yet the news was not forthcoming until years later!!!

    All on the yahoo message boards are now looking elsewhere. Try selling ads then.

  4. Wut says:

    $55 million parachute for FAILING! – This is the type of thing that has so many Americans ready to tip over the apple cart that is our system. If you don’t give them Bernie, they take Trump & roll the dice.

    Regular people work a full 40hour week, yet are forced to live at or below the poverty line, while No bank execs ever go to jail. 2008Crash?-Nobody. WellsFargoCrimes?-Nobody.

  5. Barry Mawson says:

    First why was she even given a chance the system is broken and is becoming the worsted on the net?

  6. patrick kearns says:

    Meg Whitman has had 5 years at HPE and overall sales have declined every quarter. Why hasn’t anyone on the board noticed? Buying back stock, laying off more than 100,000, not bringing products to market, no real innovation being brought to market…..Mayer and Whitman have alot of money in common. They also did not turn things around.

  7. shanealn says:

    Yahoo should have left the stories the way they were to read. You could read all the story before you left to read another story. A short story and have to go to another page to read it, NOT THE WAY TO GO.

  8. John E Strom Jr says:

    Marissa Mayer was also nasty to those who posted on Yahoo articles. She [her minions] were very unforgiving of any criticism of her and woe unto anyone who posted thoughts that were conservative. She is not a nice person. I, for one, was thrown off of Yahoo and in the process they took my e-mail account. She is mean spirited and nasty to a fault.

    Were I Verizon I would NOT fire her – for the year. I would demote her and put her into a job that suits her qualifications – the mail room – where she could bide her time until the year was up. I would also purge those on her staff that threw thousands of us OFF of Yahoo for criticizing her and making postings she didn’t agree with. Marissa Mayer should never have been CEO of Yahoo but Google, wanting to get rid of her from Google, hyped her qualifications disingenuously to get rid of her. They did but Yahoo shareholders paid a heavy penalty for Google’s deception.

    Beware, Facebook is heading in the very same direction with a site that does NOT celebrate diversity – only the leftist ideology.

  9. carlex says:

    Marissa Mayer, didn’t have the drive to be ceo of Yahoo inc. and Yahoo inc wasn’t to be driven down the cliff this way..
    Yahoo was a dream and a dream needed people who lived it from the inside, and continued with the initial vision of the future for the future, accruing and anchoring partnerships and connecting to the outer space !

    This wasn’t even considered and analyzed … and here we have another company at the end, and yet another Carly Fiorina who was paid lots instead of being thrown out ahead of the announced disaster !

    Bet on a 3 legged horse, better luck next time !! :D

    The Question that remains is who profited from this disaster??

  10. zoldello says:

    The author is stating the obvious- Yahoo is not making money, the CEO will get a truckload of money if fired post sale, acquisitions are not making Yahoo money… Those are obvious and overstated. The author should go into a more detailed analysis. An example is like here is what went wrong with tumblr acquisition, here is what should of had been done and here is what would make it better. It does not have to right (otherwise he/she would be a billionaire); but the author has to try to go deeper.

  11. says:

    This was the most boring article I ever read. What’s worse, nothing interesting to read.

  12. Deb Mich says:

    Jeez, did you actually pay for the artwork that accompanies this article? What extraordinarily poor taste. Did your editors seriously think this was clever? I expected more from Variety. How disappointing.

  13. Quicksilver says:

    What a sickening and disrespectful graphic accompanying this story. Variety is typical not such a cesspool. Why not have a graphic with a gay bar bathroom gloryhole next time?

  14. Mayer’s only sources of support are based in her identities as female and Jewish.

  15. Warrior Smith says:

    I am so disgusted with this article, I don’t even know where to begin, so I will just proceed by saying and asking the the following…
    1. How many FEMALE CEO’s are there in the U.S.? 20. Mayer had the balls or well ovaries, to come on board to a company that was failing for years. Did you depict Jerry Yang in the Last Supper when Yahoo almost went under some years ago?

    2. Not gonna lie, I am not a religious woman but out of respect for those who are, comparing a high tech leader carrying her proverbial “cross” to her crusifiction is tasteless and immoral beyond comprehension. I know I know, I’ll probably get barraged with hate comments by the millennials but ask me if I care.

    3. You and the men who chime in to condemn Marissa Mayer are sexist and misogynistic horses asses. Period. You can only try to measure up to be as bright and tenacious as Mayer. Oh and that $7 million holiday party she threw? She was trying to boost morale and implore people for not leaving the failure of a company she inherited!!!!

    I could go on for days but I will stop while I’m ahead.

    • Conscientious Objector says:

      I agree, Warrior Smith. I’m not a churchgoer, either, but calling her a “false prophet,” then imposing her into images associated with Jesus, when the MAJORITY of America’s don’t consider Jesus false, is pure B.S. I would stop following this rag, except I already unfollowed Hollywood Reporter for their support of sister-fondler Lena Dunham, and there’s only two magazines of this kind. Maybe I’ll just unplug from Hollywood and be entertained by the chirping of the birds and grasshoppers.

      • Azure says:

        Her gender does not matter in the world of business. How one performs does. I got the idea of the graphic references to what I perceived to not be Jesus or any religious tones but the fact that overpaid CEO’s female or otherwise (200 plus million dollar contract) perhaps make them feel, super human, able to do what in reality they can not (run a company) above the fray of the rest of humanity, even dare I say it the “saviour” of this company. And now as her “burden to bear”. (as someone said to me when I lived in NYC – 33 years, we all have our cross to bear (burden). And yes it had been in decline prior, but she pushed it over the cliff. But what do I know, artists, financial graphics for a Wall Street firm, degrees in science and other fields.

        My mum had “bxlls”. She was an RN with advanced training in neurosurgery. She SAVED and did not destroy. I am stupified at how mostly only in America overpaid CEO’s are allowed to be paid when they assist in the demise of the company. Some of that party money should have been security for the billions of email accounts that were hacked – again!

        One does not spend money on parties when the ship is sinking. One listed to those (or even the message boards with real people feed back – who along with myself are now finding an alternative, since the Canadian finance site is now ruined, after the American one was a few years back.)

    • dasd says:

      You look mad just because she is female and failed miserably as CEO. There are many successful female CEO and they are doing great. Stop being so called minority appeasing mentality at the top. She might be first Google female engineer, a big deal yeah-who cares, but that does not mean she got leadership or vision to lead a company.

  16. Rebecca says:

    I feel so sad reading this article. Marissa is a brave woman, she has had the courage to take a risk in her life and try to do what she consider better for Yahoo, however we are only humans beings and make mistakes, she tried, she failed, and that makes me think about my self and all the chances I ever had in my life and I feel scared to fail. She is gonna have $55 m.? good for her! She has worked really hard, even when she was pregnant, for me she deserve it.

  17. “And still she has failed to turn things around at the beleaguered company.”

    “When Yahoo hired Mayer, the company was in a position to become a real player in social media, and to blossom into a much bigger digital-media property that could leverage increased revenue from its huge audience.”

    Todd, was she hired into a “beleaguered company” as you say in the first paragraph, or one “in a position to become a real player” as you say in the fifth paragraph? I don’t think it can be both, I don’t know which it is, and after reading your article, I don’t believe you do either, nor much else about Mayer or Yahoo.

  18. Stephen says:

    I remember using yahoo messenger (or pager as it was once called) many years ago. It was fun because you could actually browse profiles and meet new people who happened to also be online, share your interests, or were in same geographic area, etc. Yahoo chat was also neat until it was overrun by bots. Clearly yahoo could not compete as a meeting space once Facebook came along. Still, yahoo was my go-to place for sports scores until recent years when they transformed the cleanest, easiest to read sports page in the business into a cluttered mess filled with auto playing videos no one asked for. Now all I use yahoo for is fantasy sports. Yahoo also changed that portion of their site for the worse. There was an uproar in the feedback section of the fantasy sports site over the bad design changes, but yahoo consistently deleted complaints about layout/color and claimed it was beyond their capabilities to add the simple user functionality to alleviate the problems. I get the feeling the higher-ups at yahoo are so desperately trying not to be left behind like they have been so many other business areas, that they initiate change just for the sake of change even to their more successful sites. And most of the time, it just drives even more users away.

  19. Sebastian Wondercat says:

    Marissa Mayer is the worst CEO in the entire world. It is a travesty that she remains employed. Yahoo’s Board breached their fiduciary duties to stockholders by continuing to employ her despite her absolute failure as CEO, for rewarding her a $55m. golden parachute given her absolutely poor performance, and for rewarding her with over $300m. in compensation for running a company into negative net worth. Let the stockholder lawsuits begin!

  20. David Graf says:

    Having been in computing for almost four decades and working at several of America’s top companies, I knew Marissa Mayer would flop after I read how she got rid of telecommuting at Yahoo. To be that clueless about how things work in the real world was a sure sign that she was living in her own bubble where reality rarely paid a visit. Of course, she was aided by her enablers who praised her with fawning media stories, photo spreads and online messages for years. Neither she nor they will pay the price that will be paid by Yahoo’s past and current employees.

  21. Brad Wurtz says:

    This is so sad it makes me want to cry. $55M in a golden parachute to sell the company that she has ruined? The board members who voted to support that deal should all be booted out. The biggest shame is that Yahoo has a tremendous brand and plenty of assets to build a growing business upon. Yet another example of the false conclusion that making a lot of money makes you a competent business leader, especially for a turnaround.

  22. R.A. Allman says:

    That cover and inside artwork is so offensive. Shame on you Variety!
    Let’s see you do something like that to Muslims and Allah.

  23. Women like Marissa Meyer, Elizabeth Holmes and even Hillary Clinton does a great disservice to women. Real empowerment involves women achieving without the woman card, and there are loads of able women out there. Marissa Meyer was no anyone special, she dated google founder Brin Sergey and thats it. Everything you hear from anyone who has actually worked with her, have really negative things to say. Why does anyone expect anything different?

    • zoldello says:

      Rubbish, the fact that these women are in positions of power and affluence tells you they have accomplished a lot and valuable lessons can be glimpsed from their lives. They are not perfect and have serious problems; but still, they can show girls (especially troubled and from broken homes) what they can do with using-the-brains, desire and determination; rather than showing skin and twerking. They are better role models than the slutty superstars that fill tmz.

    • Warrior Smith says:

      Sexist, horse’s ass!

    • James says:

      Please give it a break. There are plenty of male CEOs where they were hated, lauded by the press, but in the long term, had terrible financial plans but made short-term gains. Jack Welch comes to mind. The woman card is what you want it to be and you will use it to disparage women who don’t fit your political perspective. Get over it.

  24. AS says:

    Minor correction: Tumblr isn’t a microblogging site. It’s just a blogging site. Microblogging is something done in much shorter format, like Twitter. (Error was made twice, in the beginning and in the infographic at the end.)

  25. Victoria B says:

    This is the most sexist article I have read in along time. I’m actually pretty shocked. I started putting together excerpts to show examples and decided to give up after they reached seven. I clicked on this article from a friend’s facebook page with little experience reading Variety. Perhaps this is typically of the content. I hope not.

    • Marc Smith says:

      Can you criticize a woman and not be sexist in your eyes?

      The article laid out a clear proposition for why Marissa Mayer has not been successful at Yahoo. They include facts, numbers, and data to support their position. Which part of the article was sexist?

      I see there were so many parts that you couldn’t keep count, and then for some reason decided not to include any at all.

      That was an odd choice. But why would you expect logic…. from a woman.

  26. John Mallone says:

    MM was a EE from the start. She lived and breathed engineering. She was a prime logical thinker. And that is one of her greatest weakness. She did not connect with the upper management staff and even forgot the golden rule. “Your greatest asset is always your people.” An ego is a huge most but one needs to know when to shut up and listen, she had issues with the second part.

  27. To be fair, I think the portrait of the last supper would have been more complete if other key players of the establishment or tale would have been included; like Obama, Ben Bernanke, Lloyd Blankfein, and Jamie Diamond were included at the table;) The promise of Mayer was all about greed by pumping up the markets to unsustainable levels. Mayer’s being cast out is just the first signs of the cracks in the ruse.

  28. In Mayer’s defense, it was the establishment that’s been promoting our fake market that touted her as the second coming. And by establishment, I mean big money! The same that shorted our markets back in 2008 to bring about the financial crisis, which in turn brought about the planned bailout that’s worked out so well for the wealthy in America. She was a pond for the markets, just like Erin Callan was at Lehman brothers. Two sacrificial lambs and no convictions after the smoke cleared from the wealthy defrauding America on a level we won’t see again in our lifetime. And yes, along with the smoke clearing, we discover Mayer wasn’t the second coming.

    • Sebastian Wondercat says:

      You are delusional. She is an horrific CEO, a Marie Antoinette of the new millennium without management skills, an overpaid hapless miscreant with a bad attitude. F I R E H E R N O W

  29. Tony G says:

    Mayer’s hiring was Yahoo’s “Hail Mary” pass, with the exception that both the quarterback and receiver had torn their ACLs before the pass–and the ball was deflated. I think that many of the problems the insiders and analysts in this article referenced existed before Mayer. Internet portal brands like Yahoo, AOL, MSN, and Netscape (remember them?) serve little purpose anymore, in a world where Google dominates search and the vast majority of Internet users find entertainment, news, and other content elsewhere.

    Yahoo had several opportunities to fundamentally change its business and I think it squandered most of those opportunities. Yahoo Mail used to be a top email client, until Gmail came around and demolished them. Yahoo probably could’ve teamed up with Microsoft 10-15 years ago to take on Google but didn’t. And the entertainment space now dominated by Netflix and Amazon was not necessarily out of reach a decade ago, either.

    In short, I think Yahoo’s problem is they failed to innovate and adapt to the times. Much of Mayer’s efforts (and that of her predecessors) were late entries, so to speak. The only tech company that has successfully been able to reinvent itself seems to be IBM, and IBM arguably did so by moving out of the consumer space–not by doubling down on it.

  30. Alexandar Wagner says:

    Variety when did you become a trade interested in attacking heads of industry rather than one that informs it. I’m over it, reading deadline from now on.

  31. She is an idiot who has ruined the good features of Yahoo, such as its portal page, failed to expand its user base, and alienated the users it did have. She should have been fired years ago. Worst software CEO I have seen in years. I figured she must have “friends” in “high places” to even keep collecting a paycheck this long.

  32. Fre says:

    The Couric hire was really strange. I do not think Couris is a hot brand at all anymore, people are not watching Couric on Yahoo. That was a a terrible idea among many others.

    • Marc Smith says:

      The data quoted in the article would prove your hypothesis incorrect.

      But why use facts in your argument.

      • Marc is correct re: the data quoted. What I would like to see is a data comparison of year-to-year Couric data and a data report on how many of those views are coming in on the political coverage.
        Then, after the election, and a year has passed, a follow-up to see if Couric’s video views are in decline.
        Furthermore, how is the data compiled? When I was on a Yahoo page, the Couric video came up and played automatically. It made me change my Google Chrome settings so that videos don’t play automatically. Or, you used to be able to set the Yahoo video to not to play automatically, but if you cleared your cookies, you were back to auto. I know this just be testing it myself several years ago. My question is: Is the partial play counted as a view? Does Yahoo have data on partial and full plays of its video? Is this the reason Yahoo forces the default to auto play, which, most people whom I know, hate?

  33. CapitalP says:

    I remember I used to visit yahoo daily for their news. I liked how the news was displayed, but then that changed and the the way the news was displayed was so strange and weird. So now I get my news from twitter.

    • John says:

      Me too, when Yahoo home page was simple and easy to navigate, user friendly. Now it’s this stupid endless scroll down for insignificant news or old news from two days ago. Go visit “Yahoo Japan!” you’ll see it still maintained the exact simple layout from the early 2000’s – and to no one’s surprise, “Yahoo Japan!” is Japan’s most visited website.

  34. BillUSA says:

    $55 million to say goodbye.

  35. Yo says:

    She’s no Jack Welch!

  36. John says:

    The main question is, what is Yahoo? It used to be the first website people go to for movies, I remembered back in 2004, I wanted to watch “Taking Lives”, Yahoo had seven “2 minute” clips, I said this is great! I watched the clips and went to see the movie the same night. Now IMDB has replaced Yahoo for movie info. Then there was the free TV listing, Yahoo was the first place I went to, to check on TV programs. Everyday at work, I would have Yahoo window open on my work computer, to remind me what’s on TV that night. That’s gone. Next it was the free sports commenting. Back then you didn’t need to log in to comment on Yahoo Sports. When Cubs lost game 6 to the Marlins on that Steve Bartman catch, I remembered the whole Yahoo sports site was flooded with comments all day, which was really entertaining to read all the comments. That’s gone, because all the logins discouraged people from commenting, plus less and less people use Yahoo emails now. Lastly, Yahoo used to offer free dating website that was primarily composed of their own users, that was really fun to go through profiles of all the Yahoo dating users for free, then one day out of nowhere it became, asking users to charge a monthly fee.

    Yahoo was once cool, because it offered everyone free information. When that privilege went away, so did most of their daily visitors. Now we don’t even know what its identity is.

  37. Jerry says:

    She’s just as bad as Sheryl Sandberg.

  38. Dunstan says:

    Speaking strictly as a Yahoo user (email, Messenger primarily) the YM reliability has deteriorated severely and I’m bombarded by porn spam email to the tune of thirty or more per day.

    Why can’t Yahoo “catch” these spam emailers at the source instead of allowing it through?

  39. gray zip says:

    What could Yahoo realistically have become? It was and remains a Google also-ran, and no CEO can do anything about the fact that the world doesn’t need two Googles.

    • Fast Web says:

      GrayZip posted: “…[Yahoo is] a Google also-ran, and no CEO can do anything about the fact that the world doesn’t need two Googles…”

      That’s true, yes, but the problem with Millenial-thought today is that they cannot conceive of doing anything BUT simply duplicate what the other competitor is doing (and to “out innovate” or to “out disrupt” that competitor). That strategy is nothing but mimicking the other company. Your’re right that we don’t need 2 Googles… BUT even the 1 original Google is no longer doing a good job. My search results are CONSISTENTLY packed full of spam and redundant marketing web sites: the same web site with only slight changes to the web address appear over and over again in the results. You know that’s the case. What we need is for a Yahoo to come along and to decide NOT to compete with Goggle but to create a better way to generate those search results (or to find a way to curate those results). When I get bad results, I keep wishing that Google included a “thumbs-down” button next to each entry which I could click to indicate that that item did NOT meet the terms of my search. Over time, the search engine should begin to understand that that web site is a gaming the results.

      • gray zip says:

        So you want Yahoo to out-innovate Google or is such thinking the problem with Millennials? Confused; in any case Mayer is 39.

        Others have tried to compete in the search space since Google dominated it. Bing, and, yes, Yahoo (see above.) None made a dent. So what’s a Yahoo to do? A hail-Mary pivot to some other sector? (Enormously risky with a huge downside.) Or slowly die. The latter is what almost always happens in these cases. Maybe the most any CEO can do is delay it.

        If so, perhaps Mayer did the best anyone could.

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