Two Extraordinary Women
The jaw-dropping stories of Marissa Mayer and Kara SwisherMarch 19, 2013 By Denny Hatch
This is the unlikely tale of two women unwittingly bound together.
When Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's new CEO, decreed that employees could no longer work from home, a storm of controversy rippled throughout the high-tech industry and made news nationwide.
It was a P.R. catastrophe that should have been avoided.
"Always try to convert a disadvantage into an advantage," Grolier Enterprises chairman Elsworth Howell told me on my first day of work.
The great direct marketing guru Lester Wunderman said it a little differently: "Always try to turn a marketing disaster into a marketing opportunity."
This was all about direct marketing. It was a botched attempt to sell 14,000 Yahoo employees worldwide on why face-to-face interaction is more important than the orderly life of a telecommuter.
Yahoo's New Wunderkind CEO
Marissa Mayer was employee No. 20 at Google. A specialist in artificial intelligence, she was running Google's Maps and Street View products when tapped to become CEO of Yahoo.
To create maps, Google’s mapping division sent cars with cameras mounted on the roof to crisscross the country photographing streets and buildings. They also illegally vacuumed up confidential data from business and consumer wi-fi set-ups along the way. The group was cited by 38 state attorneys general for massive violations of privacy and drew a $7 million fine. "We work hard to get privacy right at Google," corporate spokesperson Niki Fenwick, said to the media, "but in this case we didn’t."
At age 37, Mayer arrived at Yahoo in July 2012. She was five months pregnant, had an estimated net worth of $300 million and had negotiated a $71 million compensation package.
She is the fifth CEO in as many years.
Marissa Mayer Had Every Reason to Be Ticked
Yahoo has been a problem child for years. February 2012 saw a drastic shakeup in leadership and the board of directors. In April of that year, 2,000 employees were fired. A huge data breach in August resulted in the hacking theft of 400,000 passwords.
When Mayer arrived as the new CEO at Yahoo, she found a sad-sack corporate culture. Morale was in the tank. From Claire Cain Miller's and Nicole Perlroth's account in The New York Times: