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Talent Exodus Is Just The Latest Headache For Yahoo

A canceled Alibaba spin-off, talent departures, and Marissa Mayer’s paltry maternity leave dominated the headlines.

Talent Exodus Is Just The Latest Headache For Yahoo
[Photo: Bloomua via Shutterstock]

This week’s high-profile departures of an advertising executive and a prominent board member are just the latest headaches for Yahoo.

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On Wednesday, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin resigned from the board, and Thursday, Yahoo’s SVP of advertising products Prashant Fuloria announced he was leaving his post. “The departure is yet another indication that the wheels, as they say, continue to come off the bus at the Internet giant,” wrote Kara Swisher at Recode.

On Wednesday, the Internet pioneer announced it would ditch its year-long plan to spin off its 15% stake in e-commerce giant Alibaba, which is worth $32 billion, after a series of contentious board meetings last week. Instead, Yahoo is considering selling everything but its Alibaba shares–in other words, its entire core Internet business–to a new buyer or spinning it off into a publicly traded company.

“A separation from our Alibaba stake, via the reverse spin, will provide more transparency into the value of Yahoo’s business,” said CEO Marissa Mayer. What exactly is the value of Yahoo’s business without the Alibaba shares? That’s disputed; Some investors say it’s a little over $2 billion. Or is it negative $13 billion? Yahoo still has roughly one billion users, so that’s worth something, and could be tempting for rumored potential buyers like Verizon.

In Fast Company‘s May 2015 cover story about Mayer, she said the (now defunct) Alibaba spin-off would shift the focus “back to the core and the transformation that we’ve worked so hard on here.” This about-face is a rejection of Mayer’s floundering strategy for delivering value to Yahoo’s shareholders, and it raises continued questions about her ability to lift the struggling Internet giant up by its bootstraps.

Meanwhile, Mayer is getting some flack for her decision to take almost no time off following the birth of her twin daughters on Thursday. Yahoo’s maternity leave policy says new mothers can take up to 16 weeks paid time off, but critics point out that if the company’s CEO snubs her own policy, how can employees feel it’s okay for them to take advantage of it? “Mayer’s own post-pregnancy choices made it clear that it was perfectly reasonable to expect a new mother to return to a highly demanding role before her stitches even heal,” wrote Gina Crosley-Corcoran wrote for The Broad Side.

About the author

Jessica Hullinger is a London-based journalist who covers science, health, and innovation. She currently serves as a Senior Editor at TheWeek.com.

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