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Yahoo defections show Marissa Mayer has failed profoundly

The accelerating flight of executive talent makes clear that Marissa Mayer is failing at Yahoo. It’s no longer a turnaround, it’s a rout.The central tenet of modern high-performing organizations is that the company has to attract and retain high performers. Leaving all other considerations aside, any firm that fails on this existential test is likely to be failing across the board.

And, clearly, the accelerating flight of executive talent makes clear that Marissa Mayer is failing at Yahoo. It’s no longer a turnaround, it’s a rout.

Some of the high flyers were bad fits, admittedly, starting with Henrique De Castro back in early 2014, a flub that cost the company $58  million.

Kara Swisher tallies up a list of departures, as well as many back to late 2014, with 15 plus senior members her team, most recently development head Jackie Reses, marketing partnerships head Lisa Licht, and CMO Kathy Savitt. Notably, this last group — all women working very close with her — have all left in the recent past, and in Savitt’s case, at least partially because of estrangement with Mayer. Many others — like Dawn Airy, who headed the European and other international regions for the company — have left because of frustration in the lack of execution in the turnaround plan.

I gave Mayer a B in July 2013 for her first year at the company, but in Aug 2013 suggested her turnaround had better lead to a social platform to unify all the company’s efforts, in Yahoo adopts the New York Yankees’ approach instead of Moneyball:

My sense is that to become a monster in the new world of the mobile web, Mayer has to contrive a social architecture for a broad range of media services, and her competitors in that space are Facebook and Twitter.

[…]

Mayer and company have to hope that these competitors give them time to build something really serious and really social.

Well, she hasn’t done that. I’ll leave to one side her obsession over details like the Yahoo logo — which she personally designed with an intern and a few others — and the push to end remote work for at least some categories of workers.

The real question is how long will the board wait before walking Mayer out the door, following the herd of former execs that lost faith in her.Her third quarter numbers missed expectations, and she trimmed her guidance for the year downward. Her new deal with Google for search is no breakthrough, and she’s failed to make something of the 20 or so companies she’s acquired. The opportunity to make Tumblr into a new platform competing with Facebook and Twitter — which has seemed a tantalizing opportunity to me (see How Tumblr Can Make Money And Not Piss Us Off) — has gone nowhere, for example.

The real question is how long will the board wait before walking Mayer out the door, following the herd of former execs that lost faith in her.