Salmon: Is Marissa Mayer the Right CEO for Yahoo!?
NEW YORK ( Reuters Blogs) -- Nicholas Carlson, Joe Weisenthal, and Henry Blodget deserve many congratulations on Carlson's monster 22,500-word profile of Marissa Mayer. It features the kind of deep reporting one normally only finds in books, and it sheds a lot of light on what is going on at Yahoo! (YHOO) -- both at the senior executive level and at board level. What's more, Carlson was fortunate enough to get just the right amount of access to Mayer -- enough to be able to fill in the necessary details, get lovely bits of color, and ask her the questions he needed to ask, but not so much that he became captured. (In general, with very few exceptions, the more time that a journalist spends with his subject, the more favorable the resulting profile will be.)
After reading Carlson's piece, it's clear that Mayer has genuinely changed Yahoo! for the better, over the course of the year that she's been running it. What's not clear, yet, is whether Yahoo!'s board made the right choice in picking Mayer over the alternative choice, Ross Levinsohn. Especially since the choice of Mayer was pushed through by two men -- Dan Loeb and Michael Wolf -- who aren't even on the board any more.
When Loeb first took his large stake in Yahoo! and pushed for a shake-up, his plan was clear. Yahoo! was massively undervalued on any kind of sum-of-the-parts analysis, thanks to its large stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo! Japan. As a result, if a new CEO were to come in and shake things up radically, the chances of value being destroyed were relatively low, while the amount of potential upside was enormous. So Loeb was itching to roll the dice.
What's fascinating about Carlson's account is the way in which Loeb, along with Wolf, his handpicked lieutenant, managed to override Yahoo!'s chairman, Fred Amoroso, who favored Levinsohn over Mayer. Loeb's 5% stake in the company was significant, but far from controlling -- yet somehow, in practice, Loeb managed to get exactly what he wanted, even when he disagreed with the chairman of the board.
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