It’s official. Yahoo, one of the internet’s first trailblazers, is no longer an independent company.
Verizon said Tuesday that it’s closed its $4.48 billion buyout of the struggling tech giant, after a long and winding road of uncertainty, security breaches and shareholder battles.
As part of the close, CEO Marissa Mayer said she’s leaving Yahoo, which will be combined with AOL and several other brands under a new media entity at Verizon called Oath. Tim Armstrong, former chief executive of AOL, is CEO of Oath.
“While reaching this moment has certainly been a long road traveled, it marks the end of an era for Yahoo, as well as the beginning of a new chapter – it’s an emotional time for all of us,” Mayer wrote in a post on Tumblr. “Given the inherent changes to my role, I’ll be leaving the company. However, I want all of you to know that I’m brimming with nostalgia, gratitude, and optimism.”
After Verizon announced the deal last year, it wasn’t always a given that it would actually happen. Yahoo drew criticism after disclosing that it suffered two massive hacks — the biggest known cyberbreaches of all time. One of them, which occurred in 2014 and was revealed in September, affected 500 million user accounts. Then three months later, the company disclosed an even bigger breach that happened in 2013 and affected a billion user accounts.
The hacks reportedly gave Verizon pause about going through with the deal. Eventually, Yahoo scraped $350 million off its selling price to the wireless carrier.
The deal means the end of an era for one of the first big companies of the internet age. Founded in 1995 by Stanford graduate students Jerry Yang and David Filo, Yahoo was initially a directory for things on the web. It went on to become one of the most powerful brands on the web before being overtaken in search and email by Google and in media by Netflix and Amazon. Facebook and Snapchat gobbled up users that Yahoo coveted for its messaging apps, too.
A hopeful welcome
When Yahoo announced that Mayer would become its CEO in 2012, the news was met with a lot of optimism that the former Google executive could restore the former internet powerhouse.
She tried to remake the company for the mobile era as more consumers migrated to smartphones and tablets from PCs. She refreshed each of the company’s mobile properties, including Yahoo Mail, Weather, Finance and Sports. Mayer also tried to make the company a premier media destination, and engineered its biggest acquisition — the $1 billion buyout of the blogging platform Tumblr. But she was never able to replicate the excitement around products that many of Yahoo’s fiercest rivals have been able to ignite.
Mayer also often tussled with the activist investor group Starboard, which pushed for the merger with AOL.
While she didn’t inspire users to return en masse to Yahoo, Mayer helped resuscitate Yahoo’s stock. She boasted in her goodbye note that the shares have more than tripled since she took over — though that’s partly thanks to the company’s stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.
The top job at Yahoo wasn’t an easy role to step into. When Mayer started, she was the fifth CEO in as many years. She’s had the longest tenure since Terry Semel, the former Warner Bros. executive who took the job in 2001. He lasted six years.
From Google to Vogue
Mayer worked to infuse Yahoo with something it hadn’t had in years: relevancy.
There was reason for optimism when she took over. Mayer had spent most of her career at Google in charge of the search user interface, one of the most important jobs at the web titan. Hailing from small town Wausau, Wisconsin, she got both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in computer science from Stanford University before joining Google.
What’s more, as employee No. 20 at Google and its first female engineer, she’s a bonafide Silicon Valley celebrity. So when Yahoo tapped her for the top job, it meant the spotlight was back on the lumbering giant, after it had been overshadowed for years by Mayer’s former employer.
But Mayer soon became one of the most scrutinized CEOs in Silicon Valley.
A day after Yahoo announced her as the new boss, she revealed she was pregnant with her first child and only taking a few weeks off for maternity leave. That caused a stir among people who thought she was setting a bad precedent for working moms. When she announced she was pregnant with her second and third kids (twins), she again announced she’d only take limited time off, spurring renewed criticism.
She also courted controversy when she banned Yahoo employees from working from home in 2013. Asked about the policy at a San Francisco conference two years later, she joked, “I hope that’s not my legacy.”
Also in 2013, she was the talk of Silicon Valley again when she posed for a glamorous spread in Vogue magazine, posing upside down on a chaise lounge while holding an iPad with her face on the screen.
Until the very end, Mayer tried to turn the attention away from herself and onto Yahoo’s products.
“It’s been my great honor and privilege to be a part of this team for the last 5 years,” she wrote in her Tumblr post. “Together, we have rebuilt, reinvented, strengthened, and modernized our products, our business, and our company.”
CNET’s Megan Wollerton contributed to this report.
First published June 13, 8:18 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:44 p.m. PT: Adds information throughout.
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