Those who aren't hanging on to Yahoo stock may not have been paying attention when their stock price tumbled this past July, and again in September. Both tumbles, which it's since recovered from, had to do with news regarding the Chinese web behemoth Alibaba, which Yahoo cannily got an early stake in back in 2005.
In July, as recounted in a great new piece by Nicholas Carlson in the New York Times Magazine, Forbes blogger and respected hedge-fund manager Eric Jackson published a blog post in which he laid out the case for why one of the big four tech companies, Google, Facebook, Apple, or Microsoft, should buy Yahoo. In it he publicized Yahoo's stake in Alibaba, valuing it at $37 billion at the time, and discussed how Yahoo's core businesses were actually probably all a write-off of about $4 billion, giving the company a $33 billion overall valuation. This means that any company, including Alibaba itself, could come along and buy up all of Yahoo, getting its core businesses and assets essentially for free. Or, Yahoo could join forces with AOL, which is doing a bit better financially though is valued much less at this point, streamline itself, and live out its latter days making some respectable ad revenue.
Active shareholders in Yahoo have been sounding alarms about Mayer's leadership of the company for many months now, and that's kind of what the NYT piece is about. Talking with current and former employees, it paints a picture of Mayer as an inconsiderate, indecisive, and much disliked CEO who may be in over her head. She's tried to bolster Yahoo's profile as a mobile apps maker in order to turn it into a "product company" like Apple, meanwhile spending many millions of dollars hiring people like Katie Couric to bolster the content side of the business, which doesn't seem to have gotten Yahoo anywhere.
Also, a fellow Google alum Tim Armstrong, in his role as CEO of AOL, has at least made that hobbling Web 1.0 company minorly profitable, which is more than people can say for Mayer in her first two years at Yahoo.
Long story short: Mayer still has an uphill battle to gain shareholder trust, this Forbes guy still thinks Yahoo stock could go way up next year, but the NYT thinks Yahoo might just have lived out its best days and should stop wasting its money trying to be relevant again. "For Yahoo, embracing its maturity means settling for a business that earns close to $1 billion in profit every year," they suggest. "For a company that started out as 'Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web,' that’s not a bad way to grow old."