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Things get messy at Yahoo as reports of sales and a reorg swirl

Sharon Gaudin | Dec. 3, 2015
Board meets to consider selling Internet business, letting Mayer go.

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO
Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO, discusses a new search partnership during the company's annual shareholder meeting in Santa Clara, California, on June 24, 2015.
 Credit: IDG News Service/Zach Miners

After more than three years at the helm of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer has failed to create the "epic turnaround" that many had expected from the former Googler.

As troubles continue to hound the company that has gone from being an Internet pioneer to a second-tier player, reports are circulating that Yahoo's board is considering selling off its core Internet business and and showing Mayer the door.

While that leads to many questions, one at the forefront is if Yahoo sells off Yahoo Mail and its news and sports sites -- and especially if it sells its search business -- what does that leave? Will there be more to the business than a skeleton picked clean of most anything of value?

If those sales do happen, the Yahoo that has been known as an Internet and search company for the past 20 years would cease to exist.

"If you sell your core Internet business, then what do you really become?" asked Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "You stop being Yahoo."

It may not take long to find out what's brewing at Yahoo. The board is holding a meeting today, potentially talking about Mayer's continued work there and about dumping some of its core business.

The board also is expected to take on Yahoo's potentially spinning off its 15% share of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, into a new public company in an attempt to avoid an enormous tax bill. The possible spinoff has been met with both support and criticism.

"I'm expecting big news, either a CEO change, a major reorganization, a major strategic shift, or some kind of sale," said Moorhead. "Investors are driving the narrative here. They're unhappy, want action, and want it now. The same pressures that got Mayer the job could unseat her."

When Mayer left her long-held executive position at Google tto become Yahoo's CEO in the summer of 2012, there were high expectations of what she might do.

At the time, Mayer was Yahoo's third CEO in less than a year and she was taking over a very troubled company.

After one CEO was let go and another stepped down after it came to light that his listed academic credentials weren't legitimate, Yahoo had been eclipsed by Internet giants Google and Facebook, and had also become mired in financial trouble.

For a while, it seemed that Mayer was shaking things up at Yahoo. Some industry analysts said they thought she could pull off an "epic turnaround" and put the company back on top in the online arena.

 

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