After big buildup, Mayer's plan for Yahoo remains vague

New CEO Marissa Mayer didn't have much to say in the way of specifics.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
2 min read

Given the soap opera that is Yahoo, it was only natural to expect something dramatic as recently-installed CEO Marissa Mayer gathered the rank and file to outline her plans to put the company back on the growth path. But given the drips and drabs leaking out from the all-hands confab, file this one under the header "promises, promises."

Until now, Mayer's biggest mark has been on the touchy-freely side with an eye toward making Yahoo "the absolute best place to work" as per an e-mail to employees. What investors and other folks with an interest in Yahoo were hoping to hear were details from Mayer, who was appointed CEO in July in the hope that she could sprinkle some of that same fairy dust that she may have pocketed before leaving Google.

The most specific Yahoo news today had to do with the departure of Chief Financial Officer Tim Morse, a holdover from the previous regime. Replacing him will be Ken Goldman, a veteran exec who has worked at Oracle, Siebel Systems, and Excite, and whose most recent CFO stint was at Fortinet. The changes take place next month. Speaking of the new management -- which also features a reconstituted board of directors -- it's not as if there's been nothing new. Earlier this month Yahoo closed a $7.6 billion buy-back deal with Alibaba, which is expected to net about $4.5 billion after taxes (about seven years after Yahoo invested $1 billion in Alibaba, which now is China's biggest e-commerce company.)

Until now, Wall Street has adopted a watch-and-wait approach. The stock, which rallied somewhat in the weeks after Mayer's hiring, is basically back to where it was prior to her appointment. AllThingsD's Kara Swisher and BusinessInsider's Nicholas Carlson got tipped afterward Mayer's presentation by their sundry Yahoo snitches. Given what we're hearing, the stock's not likely to spike in response to the presentation delivered by Mayer. The highlights from her talk include a pledge to:

  • Grow users and usage.
  • Make Yahoo integral to the average Internet user's daily routine.
  • Focus on "core competencies."
  • Do more "acqui-hires," buying small companies for their engineering talent
  • Nurture inside talent
  • Foster good relations with industry partners (backhanded slap at the previous management's decision to go nuclear on Facebook over patents.)
  • Focus on getting mobile done -- and done right -- by 2015.
  • Emphasize thinking big and at scale (Mayer called this the "Rule of 100 Million," whatever that means.
  • Not much detail to sink our teeth into just yet, but Yahoo remains the proverbial work in progress. To be fair to Mayer, she is taking on a huge job. But sooner, rather than later, she's going to have to get a lot more specific about where -- and how -- Yahoo gets to there.