Despite Marissa Mayer's best efforts, Yahoo is struggling to stay relevant. The company is still worth a lot of money, but most of that can be attributed to its stake in Alibaba, an enormously successful e-commerce firm in China. Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, the ageing technology giant has put itself up for auction. A letter sent to possible buyers, and seen by the broadsheet newspaper, states that Yahoo has asked for preliminary bids by April 11th. These could be for some or all of its business, including Yahoo Japan and web services like Tumblr and Flickr.
Yahoo's potential suitors remain a mystery, although reports have suggested AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are on the shortlist. According to Recode, Microsoft has also shown interest in financing bids by private equity firms. That makes sense given that Bing, rather than Google, powers Yahoo Search. If possible, Microsoft wants to protect that revenue and maintain what little market share Bing has accrued. At the same time, Yahoo is grappling with Starboard Value LP, an "activist investor" that wants to remove Yahoo's board and appoint nine new directors.
Yahoo was in trouble before Mayer took the role of CEO and president in July 2012. One of its core businesses, which involves placing ads on services like Yahoo News, Mail and Search, was in decline. Its mobile apps were unpopular, driving potential users to alternatives developed by Google, Microsoft and a never ending wave of startups. She reorganised the company and put a greater emphasis on mobile development, but it's barely moved the needle, at least in the public consciousness.
After debating a sale last year, Yahoo conducted a "reverse spin off," pushing everything but its Alibaba stake into a new company. Since then, Yahoo has laid off 1,700 employees and killed a number of initiatives including Yahoo Games and most of its digital magazines. The company has had some smaller successes, such as the Yahoo News Digest app, but nothing that would seriously affect its bottom line. Breaking up and selling its component businesses is probably Yahoo's best option at this point.