The Motley Fool's readers have spoken, and I have heeded your cries. After months of pointing out CEO gaffes and faux pas, I've decided to make it a weekly tradition to also point out corporate leaders who are putting the interests of shareholders and the public first and are generally deserving of praise from investors. For reference, here is last week's selection.
This week, I want to highlight Marissa Mayer, who has only been CEO of Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) for a few months, but has, in her short tenure, done an incredible job of guiding the company in the right direction and taking care of its employees.
Kudos to you, Mayer
The past decade has been a jumbled mess for Yahoo!. The former search engine king lost its crown to Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), which now controls more than half of the U.S. search market, and it's even lost ground to Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Bing, which pushed Yahoo! into the No. 3 search spot with just 12.2% market share as of September, according to comScore. Things came to a head earlier this year when the scandalous departure of Scott Thompson sent shareholders into a rage.
But sentiments are beginning to change now that there's a new sheriff in town. Marissa Mayer has turned shareholders' frowns upside down by bringing focus and a fresh, youthful, approach to the search site that we haven't seen in a long time.
Although Scott Thompson was the first CEO to attempt to orchestrate a partial sale of Yahoo!'s Alibaba stake, it was only under Marissa Mayer that the deal finally went through. Under the deal, Yahoo! received $7.6 billion in pre-tax proceeds, which it plans to use to reward shareholders through share buybacks.
Furthermore, the business is already seeing signs of improvement. Display ad revenue finally appears to be stabilizing as total revenue rose a modest 2%. Profits, however, crushed Wall Street's expectations by 40%. Yahoo! shareholders can probably expect these solid results to continue as long as Mayer holds to her word to focus on mobile and tablet growth, focus on driving consumer traffic to its search page through personalization, and stick to smaller, manageable, acquisitions. Similar to how Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has been operating by providing personalized ads on user profile pages, Yahoo! is targeting search-driven personalization and a mobile focus that will drive users to its site. Given Mayer's previous background at Google, this appears like a very feasible solution for the long-struggling search engine.
A step above her peers
A year ago putting Yahoo! on top of anything other than the disappointments list would have gotten you laughed out of your local investment club. Now, under Mayer, Yahoo! is blossoming from the inside out.
You'll often hear me talk about the importance of keeping employees happy by offering them a pleasant work environment as well as unique perks and benefits; Yahoo!'s Mayer has taken that one step further since she took the helm.
In addition to the normal perks that employees are used to, including health and dental plans as well as 401(k)s, Yahoo! offers unique perks like adoption assistance -- and begins offering these perks on the first day of employment. Perhaps the most unique perk of all was Marissa Mayer's move away from Research In Motion's (NYSE:BB) BlackBerry, whose archaic design has been struggling to garner favor with both consumers and enterprise customers. Instead, Mayer sent out an email informing all of her employees that they had their choice of receiving an Apple iPhone 5, a Samsung Galaxy S3, an HTC One X, an HTC EVO 4G LTE, or a Nokia Lumia 920... for free! Sometimes words can't describe how cool a boss's gesture can be, and this is one of those moments.
Two thumbs up
It's only been roughly four months since Marissa Mayer took over, but company morale is up, shareholders are happy that concrete plans are being formed to put greater emphasis on mobile applications and user personalization, and money earned from its partial Alibaba stake is being returned to shareholders in the form of a share buyback. Yahoo! still has a long way to go in terms of executing a plan to regain its No. 2 spot in search away from Microsoft and softening its reliance on a strong economy to drive display ad growth, but with Mayer at the helm, it seems like these worries may actually have feasible solutions now. Job well done, Mayer!
Do you have a CEO you'd like to nominate for this prestigious weekly honor? If so, head on over to the new CEO of the Week board and chime in with your fellow Fools on who deserves some praise. If you don't have a nominee yet, don't worry; you can still weigh in on other members' selections.
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Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter: @TMFUltraLong. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook, Google, and Microsoft and has the following options: long JAN 2014 $20.00 calls on Facebook. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.