Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer In The Hot Seat

By Andrew S. Ross
San Francisco Chronicle.

Heralded as “one of the most prominent women in Silicon Valley and corporate America,” when she took over Yahoo 2 1/2 years ago, Marissa Mayer is about to find out how tough it can be now that the shine has worn off.

Next Tuesday, Yahoo will report its fourth-quarter earnings. Mayer has also promised to say how she will “monetize” the asset that has helped keep her company afloat — Yahoo’s stock in the $243 billion Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba.

Not doing it in the way rebellious shareholders want her to will be “a clear indication to us that significant leadership change is required at Yahoo,” some investors warned.

“She’s under enormous pressure. She knows she needs to deal with it,” said Nicholas Carlson, author of the recently published “Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo.”

That was what she was brought in to do — save a company born as “Jerry and David’s guide to the World Wide Web” in 1994, after founders Jerry Yang and David Filo. With selected links to some of the growing profusion of websites, it was the indispensable guide, especially for newbies navigating this somewhat unfamiliar world.

It was a smashing success, at one time worth $96 billion, until the dot-com crash and the emergence of competitors like Google, which ate away at its business.

It went through a succession of would-be savior CEOs, including former Warner Bros. co-CEO Terry Semel, who turned down Microsoft’s $44.6 billion bid for the company in 2008; former Autodesk CEO Carol Bartz, famous for her F-bombs; and former PayPal President Scott Thompson, who lasted just 130 days before its was discovered that he fudged his resume.

Enter Mayer in July 2012. As vice president of search products and user experience at Google, she played major roles in the development of Google Maps, Gmail and a host of other applications. Often the public face of Google, she’s been a member of Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business since 2008, and was greeted at Yahoo with a giant banner with her face and the word HOPE.

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