Right now, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is doing her level best on a call with investors to sound as though the sale of the iconic company to Verizon for almost $5 billion and the expected integration into its AOL unit was the end game she wanted most of all in the world.
She did not, but that did not stop her from saying that the deal was an "exceptional outcome for Yahoo’s shareholders." Okay, true that, but not for Mayer herself, who has ended up presiding over the end of the 22-year run for a startup founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo.
Mayer went on about the "accomplishments and transformation" of Yahoo under her reign and the new meme will be about how hard it all was to turn around such a loser of a company anyway.
As usual in Silicon Valley, that’s only a little bit accurate. Mayer did try mightily, but made some serious errors, ill-conceived acquisitions and boneheaded hires. And Yahoo has been bumbling around for a while and not inventing the future at all, but it still could have been revived with the right leadership.
Does it matter? I guess if you were a shareholder, you’d feel pretty badly about some of the spending, but you’ll probably do okay once the other assets — in China’s Alibaba and Japan’s Yahoo Japan — are dispensed with. And if you’re an employee, you might be breathing a sigh of relief for now that you landed with a big and very rich phone company.
Back to the call — which includes CFO Ken Goldman and board members Maynard Webb and Tom McInerney, who has really run this sale process — Mayer answered questions from investors about the deal.
It was interesting that McInerney was talking so much on the call rather than Mayer or Goldman. But it is over for them and maybe McInerney will be the CEO of the new investment company that will include all the cash Yahoo has, its Asian assets and also some patents.
I vote Tom! He answers questions about taxable issues clearly — he is a former CFO himself for IAC — and seems to substantively understand the situation. I feel badly for Ken, but not that badly.
Back on the call, Mayer is saying some words about synergy, but I can’t listen much longer because these are not the people who will really be running Yahoo going forward. Except Tom!
The Wall Street analysts press on as if this Kabuki theater is real. But, according to sources, Yahoo cannot do anything substantive or new going forward except to keep the lights on. Instead, the top Yahoo execs have been paid to stay and will be engaged largely in explaining how the plumbing works to the new owners.
I’ve been up since 4 am PT, so I am getting a little punchy. It feels like time for donuts instead of listening to people not in charge anymore. Moving on!
Wait, Tom jumps in again, talking over deftly and definitively from Goldman and Mayer, so I am reengaged. He is explaining about the patent portfolio and how Yahoo did not think that bidders were paying as much for them as it could get in a separate sale. He answers questions. How much do I wish he was running Yahoo over the last few years? Much!
Some news from Tom: A standard breakup fee of 3 percent.
One analyst asked about Mayer’s role going forward. She reads the prepared answer, about how she wants to see Yahoo into its next chapter, but that is not really an answer at all. (She’s not going to stay after the deal is done, said pretty much every source I have at the two companies.)
"We expect her to lead us through the transition," said Webb, who is nominally the chairman of the board. Tom is silent!
Which says it all to me.
In her last lines, Mayer seems exhausted (aren’t we all?) as reality sinks in. She again thanks employees and others in this process, but she now sounds deflated and you can actually hear the air letting out of the balloon. It makes a quiet hiss, and then is gone.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.