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With Verizon’s long-anticipated bid to buy Yahoo finally official, speculation turns to what happens to the Internet giant’s CEO, Marissa Mayer.
In a Tumblr post, Mayer wrote on Monday, “I’m planning to stay... It’s important to me to see Yahoo into its next chapter,” a position she reiterated in a CNBC interview Monday morning, although she also said she was “open minded” about the future.
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For some, this indicates that the onetime Google wunderkind might depart after the deal is finished in the first quarter of next year.
“It might be for a short period,” Morningstar equity analyst Ali Mogharabi said of the prospect of Mayer’s staying on. “They might need her input during the integration process.”
After that, though, all bets are off.
RBC Capital analyst Mark Mahaney said he expected AOL chief Tim Armstrong to lead the combined AOL-Yahoo company, calling him “a very seasoned internet executive,” in the CNBC interview. “He’s the right person to be running the combined assets,” Mahaney said.
Ultimately, staying at Yahoo might not be Mayer’s choice to make, pointed out Scott Kessler, equity analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence.
“She started out with just so much interest and enthusiasm and and excitement… and the last year or two have been tremendously disappointing,” he said.
Since being tapped to run Yahoo in 2012 after a scandal involving previous CEO Scott Thompson misrepresenting his credentials, Mayer initially boosted her standing with workers by bringing in Google-style staff perks like free lunch and phones.
Her elimination of telecommuting in 2013 was less well received, though. Aside from running counter to the typical Silicon Valley corporate culture, which tends to encourage remote work, some charged that Yahoo’s ban was unfair to working parents, especially since it was widely reported that Mayer had a nursery built near her office to accommodate the baby boy she had a few months after taking the top spot at Yahoo. Mayer’s two-week maternity leaves, both in 2012 as well as three years later, when she had twin girls, also sparked a larger conversation about parental leave in the tech industry.
“She has become the face of Yahoo, for better or worse. She has become a lightning rod,” Kessler said.
Some of her choices when it came to Yahoo’s operations were also questioned, especially as the promised turnaround failed to materialize.
“I would say it’s pretty much a mixed bag,” Mogharabi said. “The acquisition of Brightroll was a good one,” he said of Yahoo’s 2014 purchase of the ad platform, but he pointed out that its 2013 purchase of microblogging platform Tumblr for $1.1 billion didn’t pay off the way the company hoped.
“While Marissa stabilized Yahoo during her tenure, she missed on the big trends,” Constellation Research founder and principal analyst R “Ray” Wang said via email. “Most folks would expect Marissa to leave within a year,” he noted.
Leaving could be lucrative for Mayer. According to Equilar, a compensation data and research firm, she will make just under $57 million if Verizon decides not to keep her on. Through the end of last year, Equilar estimates that Mayer earned nearly $219 million, including $115 million in “realized pay,” which includes her cash earnings, value of shares vested during her tenure and gains from exercising options.
That kind of money would give Mayer enough breathing room to take some time deliberating her next moves, which might be the best plan for her, Kessler suggested.
“I think she would benefit from some time between what she‘s doing now and what she’s going to do next,” he said. “There are a lot of options out there for her.”