CEO Daily: Tuesday, May 19
Marissa Mayer says Yahoo never really considered a merger with AOL.
Rumors of a mash-up between the two Internet pioneers were rampant before Verizon announced its plans for a $4.4 billion takeover of AOL last week. But the Yahoo CEO said last night she never saw the “similarities between the two companies.” CEO Tim Armstrong has turned AOL into an advertising service provider, while Yahoo under Mayer has been growing content on mobile devices, and building up video, native advertising and social businesses. (“MaVenNS “ is her somewhat awkward acronym, which she credits to her husband.)
Mayer made her comments to 200 women – plus me – at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women dinner in New York last night. I found myself fortunately seated between Goldman Sachs’ Dina Powell and Yahoo’s Katie Couric, who is paid a reported $6 million a year by Mayer as her “Global Anchor.” My colleague Pattie Sellers asked Mayer whether she was getting a good return on that investment. Mayer replied “by all means.” Couric agreed.
Asked the best advice she’s received as CEO, Mayer recalled Sergey Brin’s words as she was leaving Google to join Yahoo two and a half years ago. Brin said: “Marissa. Don’t forget to be bold.”
You can read more about Yahoo’s plans to expand its video operations here. Meanwhile, there’s also news this morning about Apple’s shifting effort to expand into television, below.
• Why Yahoo-AOL deal never happened
Activist investor Starboard Value LP kicked off 2015 with a New Year's wish: It wanted Yahoo to consider a potential deal with AOL. That never happened, as AOL is now being acquired by Verizon. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer finally weighed in on why that AOL deal never happened: "Some people on the outside saw similarities between the companies. We didn't." Fortune
• Apple shelves plans for TV set top-box
Carl Icahn is another activist investor that isn't getting what he wants from a tech company he has invested in. Icahn, who calls Apple undervalued, expects the gadgets maker will introduce a TV set by next year and enter the electric car market by 2020. But Apple has quietly put aside its plans to build a TV after years of research, according to The Wall Street Journal. Executives didn’t believe they could take on TV market leader Samsung and shelved the efforts. Fortune
• Uber's battle in Africa
Less than 20% of Africans use the Internet, so Africa seems like an unlikely place for car-sharing startup Uber Technologies to set up roots for expansion. But a lack of access to technology hasn't been why Uber has faced challenges on the continent, nor has it run into issues with regulators or taxi cartels. It is actually local competition that is giving the San Francisco-based startup a headache. Small competitors in Kenya, for example, say their apps offer better vetting of drivers. That's proving to be a game changer. WSJ (subscription required)
• ECB will frontload QE this spring
The European Central Bank is planning to increase its purchases of euro-area assets in May and June ahead of an expected low-liquidity period in the summer. The frontloading may be complemented with some backloading in September when market liquidity is expected to improve again. “That’s exactly what the market needs to calm down,” said a Zurich-based chief economist. “It will take fear out of the market that high negative net issuance in the summer leads to less market volume in the summer.” Bloomberg
Around the Water Cooler
• Wall Street remains untamed
A study on financial professionals' views of their industry has painted a troubling picture: about a third of the people who said they made more than $500,00 annually contend they have "witnessed or have firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace." Even worse? One in 10 said they had directly felt pressure “to compromise ethical standards or violate the law.” New York Times (subscription required)
• Robo-advisers: Better than humans?
Fortune decided to dive headfirst into this brave new world and use one of its own writers as the guinea pig to use the services of a "robo-advisor." In this case, the author worked with Charles Schwab, using the Intelligent Portfolio that provides free automatic rebalancing, keeping investments consistent and tempering market volatility. Those offerings could either win or potentially alienate customers. Fortune
• The film that has Wall Street talking
The last time a notable female-led film was set on Wall Street? It was 27 years ago. But two filmmakers are soliciting funding for a film called Equity, a movie about a female investment banker whose IPO is in jeopardy. The film is the product of interviews and meetings with dozens of former and current deal makers. There could be a reason so few movies have been made about the women of Wall Street: they make up just about 25% of senior-level executives at the world's largest finance and insurance firms. Bloomberg
• GE wants to make generating wind energy better
The secret to potentially generating more electricity from wind turbines may not rest in better blade designs, but in better communication between those turbines and holograms. GE is expected to announce two products that will make wind farms 20% more efficient through the use of GE’s industrial internet software and sensors. While GE has done a lot of work to improve the efficiency of blades, it is aware it needs to do more. So it turned to holograms. Fortune
Fortune's 5 things to know today
ECB and JPM shareholders vote on Dimon's pay — 5 things to know today. Today's story can be found here.