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back to article Number crunching suggests Yahoo! US is worth less than nothing

It has been 18 months since former Google golden girl Marissa Mayer took over the helm at Yahoo! and outwardly things look pretty good, but the latest financial analysis shows the Purple Palace might actually be worth less than zero. Since taking over control of the once-great internet portal, Mayer has worked hard to revamp the …

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Paris Hilton

Dark art of Accountancy?

Accountancy always was, is and probably always will be a dark art pronouncing and announcing aims, aspirations, dreams and intentions if the Board (even if it has a single well motivated and dominant individual, no?)

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Re: Dark art of Accountancy?

I once worked for a company which one year made a reasonably healthy profit of $34 million. The accountants in Germany then some how claimed and "proved" we had a loss of $60 million which was used as one of the reasons to sell of our division.....

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Re: Dark art of Accountancy?

One word: Allocations.

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Re: Dark art of Accountancy?

I have despised corporate accountants since I first began dealing with them. I'm no slouch with mathematics, in fact I'm pretty damn good with numbers, and the only group of people on Earth who will take two positive numbers and end up with a negative sum several times larger than it would be if math actually worked backwards. It's a good thing I didn't use that kind of math when I designed the machine that (possibly) wound the wheels on the train you ride to work.

I understand what they're doing, and why, and why it isn't wrong. But it's still wrong. It's like x-raying an x-ray and claiming you can now see through lead, it doesn't work that way. Although I'm always very pleased with the work my accountants do, I still don't like them because they can't/won't see the problem with being in a math driven profession and ignoring math :)

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Re: Dark art of Accountancy?

@Don Jefe. You think accountancy is bad - try economic theory. You put maths in that and it turns out that maths is wrong - especially when it accurately predicts things like crashes.

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Re: Dark art of Accountancy?

If your theoretic economic model is not matching reality you simply have too short a sampling period for meaningful data interpretation to be possible.

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You gotta remember

Economists may say markets are efficient, but that's only true in the long term. The full value of Yahoo's Alibaba stake isn't reflected in Yahoo's stock price because 1) it hasn't had an IPO yet and 2) even when it does, Yahoo is unlikely to be able to/willing to sell it for some time, if ever.

If I owned a 50% stake in Nortel in 2000, I would have been the richest man on the world on paper. If I never sold that stake, I'd be worth exactly what I am today.

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Re: You gotta remember

This person seems to have as much trouble nailing accountants to a job description as nailing jelly to a tree.

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Re: You gotta remember

The world works better when you nail corporate accountants to trees and give the jello their job.

(Metaphorically, not literally, obviously.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You gotta remember

For the E(cletive)-Con(s)-o(f the)-Mists (of Math) .. "Long term" only means "until my model is right".

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The reason is simple enough

The reason is actually quite simple: there is NO consistency in their design.

Yahoo has to be the largest badly designed website ever. Poor interface, no continuity and ever wackier code.

Yes, it really is that simple.

That will be $3 million, please. Oh, you actually want it fixed? Fire the lead developers/managers. That bit of advice is for free.

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Re: The reason is simple enough

People I know who have a Yahoo email acct have all recently complained about the new Yahoo webmail UI. Yahoo has offered the users surveys to get feedback on how they like/dislike it. So far they seem to have done nothing about the complaints.

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Re: The reason is simple enough

Yahoo! is an excellent modern example of lessons in tiger hunting. Other than taste, there's no difference between a tiger and a market and if you capture one you better made damn sure you've already got a plan for what you're going to do with it. What you decide is an entirely different matter, but you'd better eat it, sell it, breed it or weaponize it or it will destroy you. You can't just keep poking at it and expect anything good to happen.

Throwing money at acquisitions, and hopefully growth, is not only fine, it's desirable. Running a company based on cutting expenses is what makes it so cheap for me to buy failed businesses and part them out. But there's no point if there's still no plan for the tiger. All you've done is polish the stick you're poking it with and sooner or later that motherfucker is going to tear your face off and kill you so hard your relatives will die too.

They've still got an enormously huge loyal user base (for some reason so does AOL, they're Google's 6th largest advertising partner) and maybe that's good enough for them. But I wouldn't stand for it if it was one of our portfolio investments. They've got everything except a plan for the tiger and I would replace the leadership every 180 days until somebody got that part figured. Changing internal rules and spending money isn't hard and requires no special skills. In fact, spending huge sums of money is even easier than spending middling amounts, because you never have to spend huge sums of your own money, it's always someone else's.

I think her lack of tiger hunting success (it's not a success of it kills you, that's backwards) is probably tied to her personal PR campaign and obviously self serving nickname. She should revel in being 'Goo Girl' instead of an obviously false 'golden girl'.

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Tailwinds

So often a manager is brought in to rescue a company when all hope is already lost. Ms Mayer's genius is to get recruited with a few years of wind at her back. Nicely done.

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Marrissa has worked pretty hard

Yes, she might be pretty, and that likely has helped Yahoo shares through the "good looking CEO effect" :http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/10549340/Study-finds-beautiful-CEOs-boost-stock-prices.html

But any pretty hard work she has done seems to have been directed at killing off Y!, not just tilting it 9 degrees.

She killed off the the last few things that the few remaining talented employees valued: telecommuning etc. Now "I work at Yahoo!" is a euphemism for "I'm too too crap to get a job at Google/Apple/whatever.

Without underlying talent and strategy, that stock price will bleed, no matter how cute the CEO is.

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Re: Marrissa has worked pretty hard

> Now "I work at Yahoo!" is a euphemism for "I'm too too crap to get a job at Google/Apple/whatever.

That was the case since way before Marissa came...

On the other hand, Yahoo may be a worse employer than Google or Facebook, but it is still a better employer than 80% of the industry, so "too crap" is probably an overstatement. You might as well claim that going to Princeton means you are "too crap" to go to Harvard.

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Re: Marrissa has worked pretty hard

Have you ever written a check for several hundred million dollars? It ain't exactly hard. It's usually made even more luxurious by the fact that people always give you really expensive pens and booze when you're signing a big check. If I know what sort of pen it's going to be I like to deduct that amount from the check. Nobody knows what to do and you get free $6,000+ pens. It's great fun.

But to the main point, Yahoo! had been fucked for ages when the employees weren't contributing anything of value from the comforts of their tax deductible home offices, why does it matter where someone does nothing useful from? If coming into the office and getting pressured to perform to help save the ship they helped, nearly, scuttle is too much to deal with then either cut them back to intern wages or fire them. Dead weight becomes increasingly heavy as the vessel takes on more water you know.

Before you get all huffy, I was at an investment meeting where she was talking about the decision to do away with most telecommuting. Want to take a guess at internal vs home assignment completion disparity? Across the company it averaged out to 11 hours for home workers and four (4) with home workers doing the exact same assignment. Just think, she could have just shitcanned nearly 2/3 of the workforce and, were she an accountant probably would have, and reduced productivity by less than zero. Crazy right. People wanted to be paid to masturbate at home but be paid the same as someone who bathed and came to work and contributed almost 3x more.

But wait, there's more! In a truly classy move they fired a developer who had written a software tool that was gaming their activity management system but didn't press charges for conspiracy to defraud (he had hired other internal developers to help), fraud or theft. That was nice, especially seeing as how he was charging other staff for the software. As part of the not going to prison part of the deal he provided a list of everyone who had bought the software and other than a stern dressing down they got in zero trouble. None. Not even an addendum to their employment record.

Furthermore, she turned the whole thing around on the Board and made them responsible for fostering an environment of theft and fraud by being slackasses. That's just fucking classy. If she manages to save Yahoo! that's the end of tech telecommuting for everybody. It's never delivered as promised.

She may have a lot left to do, and I'm still not sold she can do it, which is why I vetoed financial involvement with them, but she has earned the chance to prove herself just because of her deft handling of the fraudulent staff. Find another issue to dislike if you want, but I can guarantee if you were responsible for those people's jobs you wouldn't tolerate excessive jacking off on company time either.

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Thumb Up

Re: Marrissa has worked pretty hard

Jesus Christ Don, are you an elder professional writer writing from a luxurious and well-maintained mountain resort, possibly with a well-stacked gun rack on your right and a half-empty whiskey glass on your right?

I may not agree with everything you write but it is always good reading.

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Re: Marrissa has worked pretty hard

Wow Don. Your inside knowledge is often astounding. (compliment)

Having been near to a few power players myself and seen how they act, your posts have the ring of truth that no amount of PR bullcrap will ever change for me.

I would sincerely like to meet you one day.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Marrissa has worked pretty hard

If she manages to save Yahoo! that's the end of tech telecommuting for everybody. It's never delivered as promised.

An interesting post, Don, but this doesn't follow. Yahoo!'s experience is only one data point, and just because they couldn't manage their employees, that doesn't mean no one can.

We'd be in deep trouble if we got rid of our telecommuting employees, since that includes a substantial number of the senior developers with esoteric technical knowledge that's crucial to our business. We've been working to break down silos and spread that knowledge around, but that's a process that takes decades and is never really complete anyway.

[Anonymous so this isn't taken as some sort of official comment on the business practices of my employer.]

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An internet stock worth less than nothing ?

Pile in chaps, must be the next hot thing.

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is it just me...

or can anyone else hear talking heads in the background...

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x12spb_talking-heads-once-in-a-lifetime_music

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was

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Re: is it just me...

More like 'Road to Nowhere'

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Re: is it just me...

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Too young to remember The Great Moderation of the Volker Fed?

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Re: is it just me...

bit of an odd question given the musical reference quoted (wiki the dates for talking heads, I clearly remember something from that era)

the 'same as it ever was' referred to the consistent massive over valuing of ad slingers with no credible revenue stream of which yahoo! was one of the first as i recall. el reg could save time by storing this article, in the years to come they could use it any number of times, just change the name of the company and the ceo.

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Don Jefe

Seems to have omitted that MM insisted on hacing an on-site kindergarten for her children, but there are no facilities available for the other women in the company. That was the point about the ban on telecommuting; nothing was done to make it easier for them to attend the office. Some unkind people with nasty minds might think she was a massive hypocrite.

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Bah

Ms Mayer should immediately declare a round of record level bonuses for everyone with three letters ending in "O" in their job title and anyone who is a V.P. of something, before asking for a government hand-out to cover same.

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