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What Could Marissa Mayer Do After Yahoo?

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is stepping down from the board after the Verizon acquisition is completed. But will she stay on as CEO or will she go?
Image: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer appears on NBC News' \"Today\" show on Feb. 20, 2013 in New York.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer appears on NBC News' "Today" show on Feb. 20, 2013 in New York.Peter Kramer / AP

Marissa Mayer was the first female engineer at Google, and the last CEO of Yahoo as we know it.

Yahoo hasn't officially joined the Verizon family just yet, but a new filing is raising questions about Mayer's future at the company, assuming the $4.83 billion acquisition is completed.

In a brief filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, Yahoo reported that Mayer, Yahoo co-founder David Filo, and four other members will step down from the company's board of directors.

Related: Marissa Mayer Leaving Yahoo Board After Verizon Deal, Company Says

"People are treating this as a sign she is exiting Yahoo, but they are just restructuring the board," said Greg Sterling, contributing editor at Search Engine Land. "That is not surprising to me at all."

Verizon's multi-billion-dollar deal is only for Yahoo’s core internet businesses such as Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo News, and advertising, among others.

The leftovers, which include Yahoo’s holdings in Yahoo Japan and Chinese conglomerate Alibaba are not part of the deal. That side of the business will be left behind when the deal is completed and will be a holding company named Altaba, which will not be a part of Verizon.

Until there are further announcements, Mayer may stay on as chief executive, or a leader in some capacity of Yahoo's core businesses, helping shepherd a smooth transition.

Mayer has mostly been out of the public eye since the company acknowledged two unprecedented hacks happened under her watch. The first, involving 500 million accounts, was announced in September. The second, impacting more than one billion accounts, was disclosed in December.

Related: Where in the World is Marissa Mayer?

While the public hasn't heard from Mayer, she's said to be heavily involved in daily meetings with her executive team, and chief information security officer Bob Lord, a person familiar with the situation told NBC News last month.

The scale of the breaches, which were disclosed after Verizon made an offer to Yahoo, also prompted Yahoo to disclose in a November filing that Verizon could pull out of the deal.

Related: Yahoo Mega-Breach Exposes 1 Billion Accounts

What Could Mayer Do Next?

At 41 years old, Mayer is nowhere near retirement age but could do whatever she wants, given she has an estimated net worth of $300 million — not to mention any potential payout she may receive.

Sterling said Mayer is regarded as "not a failure, but a disappointment," and will be remembered as "the CEO who sold the company" after trying and failing to correct course.

"She wanted to stick around. She will be there for some transitional period," he said. "I do think she will ultimately leave the company."

Mayer's last comment about her future at Yahoo was in a July Tumblr post after the acquisition was announced.

"I'm planning to stay... It's important to me to see Yahoo into its next chapter," she wrote.

But with an estimated $55 million golden parachute if Verizon cuts her loose, Mayer may have a huge incentive to leave.

Related: It's Not Just Mayer: Yahoo Has a History of Troubled CEOs

The Court of Public Opinion

However, an immediate leap to another high profile post could be a challenge, Sterling said.

"If she were to go right from this into something else, she would be perceived as the CEO who couldn't revive Yahoo, sold it, and had these embarrassing hacks under her watch," he said.

Mayer's intellect and work ethic are highly regarded in Silicon Valley, but Sterling said that if Mayer leaves, he envisions her taking a break before writing her next chapter.

But don't bet on Mayer going away anytime soon.

"She has achieved a visibility in pop culture that she probably likes, recent criticism not withstanding," Sterling said. "I don't think she's seeking attention, but [whatever she does next], I think she would seek to cultivate some public role."