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TheStreet Open House

Marissa, Who's Your Ma?

Stocks in this article: YHOO

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Marisssa Mayer's first anniversary as Yahoo! (YHOO - Get Report) CEO coincides with another modest earnings report, so the chattering classes are unanimous in saying she just got lucky.

You know the scene in Remember the Titans where Denzel Washington asks a football player "Who's your daddy?" Well, today Mayer is the football player and Wall Street is asking, "Who's your Ma?"

Ma in this case is Jack Ma, profiled last weekend by our own Robert Weinstein. Ma founded Chinese Web site Alibaba, originally a small business-to-business site, now the largest e-commerce site in the world (sorry, Amazon.com (AMZN)).

Mayer's predecessors put $1 billion into Alibaba back in 2005, and that investment has paid off huge. Even though Yahoo! sold half the stake last fall, the remaining 23% is still worth more than the whole stake was worth when Mayer took over.

Ma stepped down as CEO, handing the job off to a protege, as the company prepares to go public later this year, but he's still got the government's ear and is still expanding. The company's latest venture is small-business loans -- forces in China's government want him to "shake things up" there according to Bloomberg.

Weinstein sees Alibaba coming to America soon, but there are no indications in a recent Wall Street Journal interview with Ma's successor, Jonathan Lu, that it's imminent.

Instead, the company seems focused on domestic acquisitions after its IPO, as Reuters reports , and could then be in a position to buy Yahoo! itself.

That's why the knives are out for Mayer this morning. Nicholas Carlson at Business Insider says Mayer has almost nothing to do with her company's success -- that it's all down to luck driven by her predecessors' moves.

Technically, he's right.

But only technically.

Yahoo! before Mayer was an elephantine media ship that was going to be sinking soon. That's what got her predecessors the axe.

Mayer has gotten rid of her deadwood, 1,000 jobs, as Carlson well knows, and used part of the Alibaba stake to buy 16 different companies, most focused on mobile apps, as CNN details, in order to get cloud-based engineering talent.

She now has one of the largest such teams in the industry, with offices in both Silicon Valley and New York. She's also got four floors in what was The New York Times building, plus enough cash on hand to buy the New York Times Company (NYT).

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