Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Marissa Mayer and Yahoo!

It’s the end of the road for Yahoo! And it’s the finale of Marissa Mayer, a woman who tried valiantly to change the Silicon Valley practice of hiring white and Asian males. At Mayer’s Yahoo! women were given preference in hiring decisions.

How did that work out?

Vanity Fair’s Maya Kosoff reports:

On Monday, Marissa Mayer’s tenure at Yahoo came to a whimpering end almost exactly four years after it began. Shortly before the markets opened in New York, Verizon announced a $4.83 billion deal to acquire Yahoo’s core Internet assets, including the company's email, media, advertising, and search properties, marking the end of an era for the 21-year-old Internet company that eight years ago rejected a $44 billion buyout offer from Microsoft's then-C.E.O. Steve Ballmer.

Kosoff continues that Mayer’s tenure was marked by “stagnation and financial frivolity.”


Under her rule, Yahoo spent $3 billion in acquisitions, including $1 billion for the largely failed micro-blogging platform Tumblr. The company made a series of splashy and expensive hires, such as Henrique de Castro, an ad sales guru, who was paid $110 million for 15 months of of unspectacular work), as well as a coterie of high-priced journalistic talent whose work seemed lost on the portal. In the end, Mayer was never able to settle on one successful strategy to pivot Yahoo from a 1990s Web portal to something more enduring and dynamic. As a result, an exit into the hands of Verizon seemed the most logical, if unglamorous, eventuality.

Marissa Mayer did not destroy Yahoo! She was brought in to save a company that was failing. In that she did not succeed.

But, she was also brought in to make a political point. When Mayer was hired she was pregnant. She was going to show that the mother of a newborn could run a major corporation. To up the ante, last year, she gave birth to twins. She believed that nothing about being a new mother, nothing about the hormonal condition of new motherhood would influence her business judgement.

How did that work out?

A company once valued at over $100 billion, a company that could have accepted an offer from Microsoft for over $40 billion eight years ago, just sold for a little over $4 billion.

The Daily Mail explains:

The $4.83billion deal is a far cry from Yahoo's past value, which once surpassed $125billion.

The transaction comes as Yahoo found itself under pressure from shareholders fed up with a downturn in the company's revenue during the past eight years.

Yahoo is selling its core internet business, which includes email service and news, finance, sports websites and advertising tools. 

That includes their iconic web brands like Yahoo Mail, Fantasy Sports, the photo storage site Flickr and search. 

What does Mayer have to say about it all?

You guessed it: she blames it all on sexism, especially on a press that continued to report on her designer dresses and extravagant spending habits. Better to whine than to take responsibility. By now, you know the routine. If a woman fails, the fault lies with sexism. If an African-American fails, the fault lies with racism. If a white male fails, the fault is entirely his.

The Daily Mail reports:

Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer has hit out at the focus on her gender and looks as a female business leader.

While announcing its $4.83billion deal with Verizon, Ms Mayer reportedly decried the persistence of the media in focusing on her gender and that other of other female leaders.

'I've tried to be gender-blind and believe tech is a gender-neutral zone but do think there has been gender-charged reporting,' she told the Financial Times.

'We all see the things that only plague women leaders, like articles that focus on their appearance, like Hillary Clinton sporting a new pantsuit.

'I think all women are aware of that, but I had hoped in 2015 and 2016 that I would see fewer articles like that.

'It's a shame.' 

We will not, of course, comment on Hillary Clinton’s looks, except to point out that her fashion sense and her constantly changing hairdos suggest a woman who is uncomfortable in her skin. Like it or not, people notice such things. They respond to social cues. And they respond differently to male and female dress codes.

Anyway, if you ask why the press has spent time worrying about Mayer’s looks, you might notice that she has had a tendency to glam it up. There is nothing wrong with doing so. There is a lot wrong with complaining when people notice. Clearly, she was trying to create the image of a woman CEO who was not button-down, corporate but who could indulge certain very feminine styles and habits.

Business Insider offers some perspective on Mayer’s fashion sense.

For example:

Mayer is known for her high-fashion sensibilities, regularly choosing pieces by designers like Carolina Herrera and Alexander McQueen. She once paid $60,000 to have lunch with Oscar de la Renta and has said the designer's three-quarter cashmere cardigan has become her work uniform — she owns ones in ivory, navy, black, hot pink, teal, red, and royal blue.

Want to know more? Perhaps you missed the story about her wedding to Zach Bogue:

Mayer and Bogue wed in a glitzy ceremony on San Francisco's Treasure Island in 2009. She wore a hand-beaded Naeem Kahn gown, while bridesmaids wore jewel-toned dresses by Reem Acra. After the ceremony, guests enjoyed a fireworks show while dining on lobster and caramelized beef tenderloin prepared by Jean-Georges Vongerichten at the Four Seasons. The rehearsal dinner included a surprise performance by The Killers.

At least, she is a patron of the arts:

In 2006, she had about 400 pieces of glass art by Dale Chihuly installed in the ceiling of her apartment. The glass pieces typically sell for an average of $15,000 each, and the delivery reportedly caused significant traffic problems in the city.

When it comes to partying, Mayer spared no expense:

When it comes to holiday parties, Mayer spares no detail. On Halloween, she gives out king-sized candy bars to trick-or-treaters and decorates her front yard with professionally carved pumpkins. For Christmas, she once put an ice skating rink in her backyard and brought in fake snow.

And also:

That extravagance apparently extended to company holiday parties as well. In a 99-page presentation in December 2015, Jackson criticized Mayer for her spending habits, which included a "Great Gatsby"-themed holiday party that reportedly cost the company $7 million.

Be clear, we do not reproach her anything. She was trying to recreate the Yahoo! brand, making it more glamorous, more decadent, more hip. In that, as in other business matters she failed.

One last photo of MM in her glory days:

 That extravagance apparently extended to company holiday parties as well. In a 99-page presentation in December 2015, Jackson criticized Mayer for her spending habits, which included a "Great Gatsby"-themed holiday party that reportedly cost the company $7 million.

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