Walmart Director Marissa Mayer Gets Paid $214 Million for “Doing Nothing”

Marissa Mayer attends the San Francisco Opera Gala in 2011 with her husband, Zachary Bogue (Source: SFGate)

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who is also a member of the Walmart Board of Directors, has shown no sympathy for the plight of Walmart’s low-paid employees or the taxpayers forced to pick up the tab for the public assistance programs they rely on to get by.

Last November, Mayer even joked publicly with a friend (the billionaire CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff) at the expense of Walmart workers protesting their plight.

But I guess when you’re the kind of person who gets paid more than $200 million for doing nothing it’s just tough to relate to the little people.

Writing in The New York Times this week, Steven Davidoff analyzed Mayer’s Yahoo paycheck. His conclusion:

Ms. Mayer, the Yahoo chief executive, had received compensation worth potentially $214 million — most of which was for doing nothing.

Wait, what?! How is that possible?

Her good fortune stems from Yahoo’s stake in the Chinese Internet behemoth Alibaba, a deal that was arranged in 2005 by Yahoo’s co-founder, Jerry Yang. The enthusiasm and hype over a likely initial public offering by Alibaba has driven Yahoo’s stock to a sky-high valuation, a surge that has showered Ms. Mayer with vast riches.

Is that really fair? I mean, hasn’t Mayer re-ignited investor and public interest in Yahoo? And hasn’t the company benefited from the positive attention Yahoo gets as a result of Mayer’s Silicon Valley celebrity status? Davidoff isn’t buying that story.

A paycheck of more than $200 million is sweet, but the problem is that the value is not primarily a result of anything she has done as chief executive. Yahoo continues to struggle — its revenue last year was $4.68 billion, down from $4.98 billion in 2012. In the first quarter of 2014, Yahoo’s income fell 84 percent, to $30 million from $186 million in the quarter a year earlier. Moreover, there has been a bit of turmoil in Yahoo’s executive suites. Ms. Mayer’s trusted lieutenant, Henrique de Castro, who was hired to assist the turnaround, was recently fired as chief operating officer.

And Davidoff reminds his readers that the de Castro fiasco – justifiably blamed on Mayer – cost Yahoo a pretty penny:

Mr. de Castro received $58 million when he was pushed out less than a year and a half after his hiring.

Mayer used Yahoo’s Alibaba riches to buy up a massive treasure trove of Silicon Valley startups (and talent), including Tumblr, for which she paid an astounding $1 billion. But the jury is still (way) out on whether these acquisitions will ultimately move the dial on Yahoo’s ailing bottom line.

Mayer is widely reported to rely on hard data to make decisions about everything in her personal and business life – what job to take, where to invest, who to hire, even what colors should be allowed on the Google search page, which she used to manage.

I imagine that Mayer justifies her dismissal of Walmart workers’ concerns by telling herself they’re just not worthy of better treatment – that “the data” doesn’t support their case.

Maybe it’s time for her to look in the mirror.