It’s the end of 2016. Do you know where your CEO is?
For a brief period of time, it looked like 2016 was going to be the year that Marissa Mayer finally did something good for Yahoo. She managed to sell the company’s core assets, which had been floundering for several years, to Verizon for $4.8 billion. But now, thanks to two massive data breaches, the deal is on the line, and Mayer is nowhere to be found.
Indeed, 2016 was a very bad year for Yahoo. The company’s business continued to flail, its high-powered hires continued to flail, and its splashy acquisitions continued to flail. But the two hacks have the potential to overshadow all of that, because they’ve put the Verizon acquisition—the only good thing to happen to Yahoo in some time—in serious jeopardy.
But Mayer, Yahoo’s most powerful ambassador, has been largely absent from the public view since news of the first hack broke in September. Now, with this week’s revelation of a second hack—which has been fingered as the largest known data breach in history—her reticence is more conspicuous than ever. Mayer has never been shy about making herself heard. So where the hell is she?
“Marissa and our executive team have been deeply engaged in our ongoing investigation,” a spokeswoman for Yahoo told NBC by way of an explanation. While probably true, it’s vague and deflective—not entirely surprising given its source, but not particularly reassuring, either.
Of course, Mayer hasn’t been entirely missing in action. She attended Glamour’s Women of the Year gala in mid-November, where she noted that she arrived at Yahoo “during a turbulent period.” (She’s also been attending some holiday parties, apparently.) But given the catastrophic nature of Yahoo’s current situation, her public silence is notable.
Yet it isn’t altogether surprising, because Mayer is quite likely in the middle of a giant purple minefield right now. Following the news of the first breach, the Financial Times reported that she knew about the incident in July, “raising questions about whether [she] withheld information from investors, regulators and its acquirer Verizon until this week.” Moreover, the company admitted in November than several employees knew about the hack as early as 2014. And several former employees told the New York Times in September that Mayer “emphasized creating a cleaner look for services like Yahoo Mail and developing new products over making security improvements.”
Thus, even if Mayer wanted to say something about Yahoo’s current woes, she may not be able to. The company’s situation is so precarious—particularly with regards to the still incomplete Verizon deal—that opening her mouth to say anything may well be a liability.
Before you feel too bad, however, keep in mind that her golden parachute is worth an estimated $55 million—if the dual hacks don’t mess things up for her, that is. Remember when life was just a joyous Zamboni ride?