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What will Marissa Mayer do next?

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer delivers her keynote address at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas
Reuters/Robert Galbraith
The spotlight’s dimming.
By Joon Ian Wong
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Marissa Mayer’s future with Yahoo for at least the next six months is settled. She’s staying until the company’s acquisition by Verizon, announced today (July 25), is complete. The deal is supposed to clear shareholder and regulatory approvals by the first quarter of 2017, Yahoo has estimated. What happens after the deal is done is anyone’s guess.

Towards the end of a call with investors today (July 25) Mayer announced her plans to stay with the company through the acquisition. “I plan to stay,” she said. “I love Yahoo and I am excited to see it into its next chapter. I have two priorities: seeing this transaction through to closing, and protecting the value in our equity stakes [in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan].”

It’s not clear who will be in charge of Yahoo after the company joins Verizon. But it doesn’t seem likely to be Mayer. Marni Walden, the Verizon executive in charge of integrating Yahoo into AOL, has hinted that AOL boss Tim Armstrong will be put in charge of Yahoo. Walden told CNBC that planning Yahoo’s leadership team hadn’t taken place yet due to the auction to acquire Yahoo’s assets, but noted: “At this point, Tim is leading this for Verizon and we are very pleased that he is doing so.”

The question remains whether Mayer will join Verizon for a period of time under Armstrong, or whether she will stay on with “RemainCo,” which is what Yahoo’s board and management team are calling the entity that will be left after its core assets are sold. RemainCo will get a new name, Yahoo said on an investor call today, and it will be designated as a publicly traded investment company.

What would Mayer do at RemainCo? Its main assets would be a portfolio of more than 4,000 patents or patent applications dubbed “Excalibur,” a 15% stake in Alibaba worth about $31 billion, and a 35.5% holding in Yahoo Japan worth about $9 billion. The patent portfolio is the only portion of those assets that could be run as an operating business, and it’s hard to envision Mayer being satisfied with running an IP licensing firm.

Yahoo hasn’t decided whether to run a licensing business or sell the portfolio wholesale, although Mayer said it has been actively shopping the assets. More than 30 global technology firms have already expressed interest, said Tom McInerney, chair of Yahoo’s strategic review committee.

In the interim, Mayer remains boss of a still independent Yahoo with lots more M&A activity lined up. But it looks likely that a lot of the heavy lifting will be done by McInerney, chair of Yahoo’s strategic review committee, and a former CFO of IAC. He’s being talked about as a potential RemainCo CEO. McInerney said on the call that a deal for RemainCo assets could happen before the Verizon acquisition closes early next year. “Our goal is to maximize the value of those assets from this day forward,” he said, “There’s nothing to preclude a transaction for any period of time.”

If she goes, Mayer will have a golden parachute waiting. She will get $57 million in severance if she departs, according to compensation research firm Equilar. That’s on top of the $162 million in cash and stock she received over the four-year tenure, according to the firm, bringing the total to over $200 million.

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