Yahoo isn’t really going away (at least, not yet)


Yahoo will be renamed “Altaba” and company CEO Marissa Mayer will step down from its board of directors once its major sale to Verizon closes, according to an 8-K filing released by Yahoo earlier today.

It’s a crazy string of events that sounds like the end of one of the web’s most iconic properties. But the reality is a bit different from what the many headlines about this series of moves make it sound like.

That’s because these announcements apply to, essentially, the zombified heart of Yahoo. The Yahoo we all know (and don’t really love) — its search engine, blogs, and homepage — are still sticking around. For all we know, Mayer could be sticking around for awhile as well.

This is all happening because of Yahoo’s sale to Verizon. Back in July, Verizon agreed to buy a major portion of Yahoo, including its blogs and email service, for $4.83 billion. But Verizon isn’t buying all of Yahoo. It’s leaving behind a valuable stake in, among other things, Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.

Because Verizon isn’t buying all of Yahoo, it essentially splits the company in two: one is the Yahoo it’s buying, which includes most of the Yahoo stuff that people visit on the web; the other is essentially just a holding company, which will hang onto the shares in Alibaba and others.

Under Verizon, there will very likely still be a brand called “Yahoo” and a series of websites built by it — there’s no reason to think those will be going away any time soon.

It’ll be up to Verizon whether or not Mayer sticks around, but she has at least indicated that she hopes to remain with the company. In a blog post last year, Mayer wrote: “For me personally, I’m planning to stay … It’s important to me to see Yahoo into its next chapter.” Yahoo could have other plans for Mayer in mind, but it declined to provide details beyond those in an SEC filing.

The changes announced today — renaming Yahoo to Altaba and Mayer leaving that board — apply only to the holding company. That company isn’t really Yahoo anymore; it’s mostly just a pile of stock and unimportant patents. There’s no reason for it to be called Yahoo, and there’s no reason for Mayer, famously a product person, to stay involved. Perhaps it’s telling of Mayer’s future involvement with Yahoo assets as a whole, but it doesn’t mean much for people who visit Yahoo on the web.

Yahoo tried to make all of this happen in a less confusing way, by spinning off its Alibaba holding as a separate company and then selling Yahoo proper. But it turns out the tax situation worked out better for Altaba this way. And, unfortunately, that’s most of what Yahoo has become.

So to sum all of this up in a quicker format:

  1. Verizon is splitting Yahoo in two
  2. It’s buying the Yahoo we all know
  3. Yahoo (and likely Mayer) will still exist at Verizon
  4. The remaining portion of Yahoo is a holding company
  5. The holding company is being renamed Altaba
  6. Mayer will not sit on Altaba’s board of directors

There’s also one final and very important point: none of this happens until Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo closes. And, critically, none of this happens unless Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo closes, which is no longer a given.

With Yahoo disclosing two damaging hacks since their deal was announced, it’s entirely possible that Verizon will look for a way out. If that happens, you can forget about all of the above.

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