If the Verizon deal goes through, one of Silicon Valley’s most famous brand names will soon exist only in our memories.
Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Say goodbye to Yahoo.
The troubled internet giant announced in a public filing on Monday that it will change its name to Altaba following the $4.8 billion sale of its core business to telecom titan Verizon, marking the end of one of the most famous brand names in Silicon Valley history.
Yahoo didn't provide an explanation for what "Altaba" means or why it was selected as the new name of the company. But it's worth noting that the name is phonetically similar to "Alibaba," the name of the Chinese internet giant that is part-owned by Yahoo.
The company also announced that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, the veteran former Google executive who tried and failed to turn around the internet pioneer, will exit the company's board after more than four years at the helm. Yahoo co-founder David Filo is also leaving the company's board.
Monday's announcement is just the latest surprising twist for a company that from its founding in 1994 helped define the first major stage of the web, first as a "guide to the World Wide Web" and later a search engine, but one that has long since been eclipsed by Silicon Valley rivals like Google, and more recently, Facebook and Twitter.
Once the company's core internet business is sold, Yahoo (Altaba) will effectively become an investment company, with significant stakes in Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan, along with some intellectual property and other assets. Yahoo's 15% stake in Alibaba is worth in excess of $30 billion. Verizon will retain the rights to the Yahoo web properties and branding, so Yahoo.com and Yahoo Mail and associated products may not actually be going anywhere—though they will have a new parent company.
And after the dismal 2016 that Yahoo had, it's not surprising that the company would want to rebrand itself.
Over the last several months, Yahoo has suffered the indignity of disclosing that it was the victim of several major hacking incidents in recent years. After first announcing that information associated with at least 500 million user accounts had been stolen by a "state-sponsored actor," Yahoo was forced to later acknowledge a separate incident in which a whopping 1 billion user accounts were affected.
Those disclosures came after Verizon had already announced its plan to buy Yahoo for $4.8 billion, prompting the telecom giant to reportedly ask for a $1 billion discount on the sale price. It's entirely possible that Verizon might still walk away from the deal altogether.
Verizon wants to integrate Yahoo's internet business with fellow, faded dot-com-era giant AOL, which the telecom giant bought last year for $4.4 billion, in order to gain a stronger foothold in the online advertising space.
The problem facing Verizon is that the online advertising market is already dominated by Google and Facebook. In 2015, Google and Facebook accounted for 64% of all online advertising revenue, according to data from Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser cited by Bloomberg.
For Mayer, the Verizon deal and the subsequent hacking disclosures amount to disappointing conclusion to a multi-year effort to turn around Yahoo's internet business, which has been ailing for nearly a decade.
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