Is This The End For Yahoo!?

Relationship Status: It's Complicated

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It's no secret that Yahoo! has been fighting to find its place in today's world online. One of the pioneers of search engines, the internet portal was once part of one of the biggest technology booms of the 90's and has managed to stay afloat since. However, on Tuesday, CEO Marissa Mayer revealed her long-awaited plan to "simplify" Yahoo! in order to ease stakeholder concerns. The young chief executive has long been criticized for her leadership at Yahoo! as investors have watched the company take new direction and then have their shares plummet. Mayer's new plan is finally going to involve cutting down on staff and payroll, by 15%, laying off some 1,700 employees. Two notable board members, Max Levchin and Charles Schwab, have recently exited, leaving spectators with the impression that things are not getting any better, or a that a buy out is inevitable. 

Mayer's new plan is finally going to involve cutting down on staff and payroll, by 15%, laying off some 1,700 employees.

But remember, Yahoo! has been in a situation like this before, or a least a similar one, when back in 2008, big brother Microsoft tried to step in and acquire the tech giant. Yahoo! resisted the $44.6 billion offer and continued to fight for the right path to stay relevant. Marissa Mayer became CEO in July of 2012 with big expectations to turn the company around, and unfortunately, 3 years later, those expectations are still waiting to be fulfilled. Yahoo! has held a lot of scrutinized promise during Mayer's tenure, as she has continued to acquire more assets and diversify avenues in what seems like a desperate effort to keep the business afloat. Perhaps the most well known venture was maintaining shares within Chinese online commerce site, Alibaba. Mayer also acquired Tumblr, Flickr, and a slew of other startups that were bought with the profits of the Alibaba deal. Yahoo! has continued to struggle as Mayer works to transform the company with her self-described "mavens", or the mobile, video, streaming, and social channels that they have been utilizing to create change. The overall tone has been that of a fighter refusing to go down while continuing to try to push ahead, unwilling to accept defeat.

But Tuesday's announcement of being open to "strategic alternatives" has many business insiders smelling blood in the water. It looks like Mayer could finally be ready to throw in the towel and that Yahoo! could continue to exist, but perhaps with another identity, and not on its own. Talks of splitting the company into two separate entities have loomed for months. This would enable Yahoo! to maintain their holdings within Alibaba and to lump all the other internet things together and basically hock it for parts. Rumors have already surfaced after buying AOL, that Verizon could seek to add Yahoo! to their collection of internet portals of the past. CFO Fran Shammo stated in December that, "...if we see there is a strategic fit and it makes sense for our shareholders and we can return value, I mean we’ll look at it..."  

After the cuts, the company will reportedly be 42% smaller than it was in 2012, meaning that since Mayer has been in charge, the company has continued to downsize. But does this signal the end for the tech giant? At $27 billion, Yahoo!'s market value is sadly, less than its holdings in Alibaba. Mayer seems to be pleading with investors for just a little more time to right the ship, saying, "It's clear to everyone our situation is complex." That statement is very true, and might buy Mayer some time to explore some new options so that stakeholders can get maximum value out of their investment. The process of entertaining offers from potential buyers has historically been a back and forth game that Yahoo! is very good at playing - just think back to the Microsoft memory I brought up earlier. But how long can Yahoo! dodge and weave this time? 

Tumblr is reportedly worth 25% less than when it was acquired and accusations of an overly lavish holiday party have made their way into the press, so the pressure is on. Like Mayer said, "Our strategy for maximizing value is also going to be complex." No kidding. The recent mother of twin daughters definitely has her work cut out for her. For the foreseeable future, we'll have to keep asking our Magic 8 Ball what's going to happen, but the answer has been the same for Yahoo! for quite some time now: Outlook Not So Good.