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Yahoo Talent Exodus Accelerates as Marissa Mayer's Turnaround Flounders

Marissa, bar the door!

The departures of a number of high-profile executives at Yahoo has accelerated in recent months, so much so that many inside the company are becoming worried about strategy and execution of key initiatives aimed at turning around its core business.

While Silicon Valley is a place where talent moves regularly among the many tech companies, one source inside Yahoo called the situation “troubling”; another worried about the ability of managers to stanch the flow of valued employees.

Sources inside the company said CEO Marissa Mayer is attempting to put a good spin on the situation, as well as trying to stop leaking to the media about the issue. At recent companywide meetings, for example, she has put up photos of purple kittens — Yahoo’s famous color — to indicate a successful period of no leaks about the company’s internal issues including staff departures.

Kittens or no, that problem has been further exacerbated by the recent decline in its stock price — Yahoo shares are down 34 percent since the beginning of the year, due in part to the drop in the value of its stake in China’s Alibaba Group. Yahoo is spinning off that asset, even though it has not gotten the tax-free transaction approval it had hoped for from the government.

While Mayer has fought the exodus by awarding her employees lucrative pay packages, according to many sources inside the company, that has not been enough to hold them there. Many are worried about secular trends that are working against Yahoo, which reports its third-quarter earnings Tuesday.

Sources said the latest results will show almost no traction in Mayer’s much-promised turnaround. A key part of her strategy — which has been criticized — has been to “acqhire” talent via acquisitions, as well as getting former Yahoos to return.

That seems to not be working as well anymore (if it ever did).

Just last week, Yahoo lost two senior women execs — development head Jackie Reses to Square and marketing partnerships head Lisa Licht.

Before that, another exec once close to Mayer — CMO Kathy Savitt — left for a job at a Hollywood entertainment company, although sources said that was due in part to increased estrangement between her and Mayer.

More troubling was the departure of Mike Kerns, the SVP of the homepage and verticals who left in April to later join Peter Chernin’s company as its digital head. He was well liked at the company and considered the kind of exec needed there to compete with more innovative rivals like Snapchat, Facebook and others.

But the list of this tech rapture is much longer, including some top execs whose departures have not been reported. Here’s a small sample:

Bruno Fernando-Ruiz: The well-respected chief architect behind Yahoo’s personalization technology and Gemini advertising platform was a top-level engineer at the company. He left in April to co-found a driving app startup called Nexar.

Alex Stamos: Yahoo’s chief information security officer left in June for a job at Facebook, where he is chief security officer. Another well-regarded techie has left Yahoo’s security staff in a weakened state.

Ramses Martinez: Stamos was replaced by this exec, who left just two months later to go to Apple’s information security team. Sources said a number of key networking engineers have moved to Apple with him. Also much respected internally.

Jim Everingham: The VP of engineering for Yahoo’s important homepage and verticals, he left to run engineering at Facebook’s Instagram in August. He came to Yahoo in 2012 after it bought his company, photo ad network Luminate, which became the name of the small business unit that is a key element of its Alibaba spinoff.

Bernardo Herdandez: The former Googler came to Yahoo to join Mayer in reviving Flickr, as part of a series of much-touted hires from the search giant. He left in May for personal reasons (surf’s up!).

Jon McCormack: At the end of last year, Mayer scored a coup in the hiring of the Amazon star to be in charge of all of Yahoo’s mobile engineers. He only stayed a few weeks.

Scott Burke: Yahoo’s SVP of advertising and data platforms left quietly in August after 10 years, after losing much of his portfolio to other execs. He is working on Helix, a new genetics startup.

Dawn Airey: The well-regarded media exec headed Europe and other international units for the company. She left this summer after two years at Yahoo, apparently exasperated by the lack of progress in its turnaround. She is now CEO of Getty Images.

Peter Foster: Despite a series of departures by top ad execs at Yahoo — Ned Brody, Lee Brown — Foster held on for a while. He left this summer and is now at a startup called Wrap Media, a “mobile-first storytelling and commerce platform.”

Keith Kaplan: Sources said that the head of global agency and client development at Yahoo has also headed out the door of late. The well-known ad exec outlasted Foster, but is not the last one to be considering leaving.

In fact, there are more to come, said sources, which I will add below.

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