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Some angry Yahoo investors want AOL to rescue them

Chief Executive Officer Of Yahoo! Inc. Marissa Mayer Joins Key Speakers At Cannes Lions International Festival Of CreativityChief Executive Officer Of Yahoo! Inc. Marissa Mayer Joins Key Speakers At Cannes Lions International Festival Of Creativity
Marissa Mayer, CEO of YahooPhotograph by Simon Dawson — Bloomberg/Getty Images

Yahoo’s Chief Executive Marissa Mayer may be feeling some heat today, after a media report said at least two major shareholders are so unhappy with the executive’s turnaround plan that they are calling on AOL to swoop in with a merger and run the combined company.

There are reportedly no talks between the two Internet companies, although AOL’s (AOL) CEO Tim Armstrong is allegedly receptive to a potential deal if it were to occur in a friendly manner, according to a Reuters report that cited unnamed investors. Reuters also reported that two top-10 AOL investors met with Armstrong in recent weeks to discuss the possibility of a deal with Yahoo (YHOO).

A Yahoo representative wasn’t immediately available to comment on the report.

The potential combination of Yahoo and AOL first began to pick up real steam in September, when activist investors Starboard Value LP said a deal could result in cost synergies of up to $1 billion. In a letter addressed to Mayer, Starboard argued Yahoo was “deeply undervalued relative to the sum of its parts.” Starboard criticized Yahoo’s “ill timed” Alibaba stock sale and questioned Mayer’s acquisitions strategy, but said the company’s core business is valuable. Mayer responded by saying she would review the Starboard letter carefully, while also touting stock buybacks and her commitment to creating shareholder value.

And she’s certainly done a stellar job on that front. Yahoo’s shares have more than tripled since Mayer became CEO, although the company’s core business has failed to post meaningful growth. Much of that stock market appreciation has been tied to Yahoo’s Asian assets, which include a stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA). Still, Mayer is highly regarded in some places. She is ranked sixth on Fortune‘s “40 Under 40” list and 16th on the magazine’s “Most Powerful Women” list.

But a Fortune cover story on Mayer earlier this year hinted at some of the challenges the Yahoo executive has faced as she angles to turn around the company’s digital advertising business. While Yahoo’s mobile business is expected to record $1.2 billion in revenue this year, bolstered in part by Mayer’s investments, the larger legacy business is still struggling. Total revenue only rose 1% in the third quarter.