Kara Swisher

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Here Come the Inevitable Marissa Mayer Magazine Profiles — As She Preps Her Quick Return to Yahoo

New York magazine just published what will doubtlessly be the first of many larger-scale profile pieces on new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (Fortune’s at work on one, too).

Titled “Can Marissa Mayer Really Have It All?” New York’s version is a very solid and fair effort that raises a lot of pertinent questions about the Silicon Valley Internet giant’s latest leader.

That, of course, includes pondering the high-profile issues around her coping with a newborn (really new) and work; her carefully crafted public glamour-geek-girl persona that is at odds with her sometimes more tetchy private one; Mayer’s mostly-up-and-then-down-at-the-end career at Google as a key exec; and the myriad challenges she faces in turning around the long-troubled Yahoo.

Writes Lisa Miller quite astutely: “This newest version of Marissa, the mom-geek-CEO, will surely test Mayer’s iterative powers, for she’s playing to a tougher crowd, one that won’t be placated by tweets, Manolos, and rapturous praise for pineapple malts.”

Indeed not, which is why sources said Mayer is likely to begin to make postpartum appearances back at Yahoo as early as this week. She delivered her first child with husband Zach Bogue, whom she dubbed “Big Baby Boy Bogue,” on Sept. 30.

Among the initiatives she has been working on up to and after her son’s birth, said numerous sources, is the redo of Yahoo’s powerful home page, a reorganization of top management duties, and an announcement about whether it will buy back shares or give a dividend from its recent multibillion-dollar sale of part of its lucrative stake in China’s Alibaba Group.

In addition, said sources, Mayer is also putting into place her new methodology of keeping track of employee performance and rewards. There is an all-hands meeting scheduled today, in fact, apparently to go over the system, which Mayer spoke about in her last all-hands meeting.

The home page redo is also in the late-stage works for unveiling soon, said sources. Those who have seen it said it has a starker and simpler design ethos, and will stress user personalization, customization and more social elements. It will also have ample opportunity for third-party developers to offer a variety of services on it (maybe Mayer can save Zynga by copying a little bit from Facebook!).

The reorg will also be interesting. Mayer has made a number of top exec appointments, including adding a new CFO and head of HR. She will also be rejiggering other roles of existing management.

For example, expect tech and operations EVP David Dibble — who got a mess of new responsibilities right before Mayer was appointed — to have some of that dialed back.

The disposition of all $3.6 billion of Alibaba cash is perhaps the most immediate issue, especially for investors, who are largely hoping for a buyback of stock. Such a move will likely cause Yahoo shares to rise, as happened at AOL.

That would be nice, since Yahoo stock has stayed pretty flat since Mayer got to the company in July. (That compares, ironically, to a 31 percent rise at Google since she left.)

But Wall Street analysts and others have been making bullish calls on Yahoo recently, including CNBC’s screamy stock guru Jim Cramer of “Mad Money.”

Boosted by the growing value of its Asian assets — in China, as well as in Japan, which Yahoo is trying to sell — and also anticipating some kind of magic mojo from Mayer, price targets for Yahoo shares have been as high as $22.

That was from Goldman Sachs, which reinstated coverage of Yahoo with a “buy” rating recently. Analyst Heath Terry noted that “while user engagement continues to decline, the company lacks a mobile strategy and significant talent has left the company, Yahoo still has hundreds of millions of users, valuable Web properties, and the financial resources to fuel a potential turn around over time.”

Translated: Yahoo kinda stinks, but it still might be able to buy itself out of this mess with a $10.6 billion pile of dough from Asia.

All eyes will be on the actual business Yahoo operates itself in two weeks on Oct. 22, when the company announces third-quarter results. Sources said the quarter will come in as expected, but will still tell a story of lackluster growth in advertising, engagement and, well, every key part of its native offerings.

That said, Mayer is expected to be on the call — her first at Yahoo — to outline her grand vision in more detail, as a spokeswoman has noted.

That’s good, since shiny profiles of her can only do so much. It’ll be nice to finally hear her say something definitive in public about how she’s going to fix the company that has given the mediagenic exec even more press.

(And, let’s hope, without the tweets, Manolos and pineapple malts.)


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle