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Yahoo’s Mayer to Employees: No Firings…’This Week’

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has no future in comedy.

During her company’s weekly “Friday FYI” meeting on Jan. 8, Mayer joked that she wasn’t going to lay off employees “this week.” This from the NY Post, citing people who claim to have been at the meeting. While the meeting was meant to be kept in-house, one employee claims to have told The Post that she made the joke and “many of the employees laughed at her.”

Mayer’s comment may have made some employees chuckle, but whether it was nervous or genuine laughter is unknown. Another source told The Post that Mayer may not have been joking and the laughter was directed at her for trying to make employees believe that she wasn’t going to start layoffs soon.

Yahoo (YHOO) is in the middle of what could be a considerable shake-up. Late last year, after rampant outcry among shareholders, including activist shareholder Starboard Value, the company decided against spinning off its most valuable asset: Its more than $30 billion stake in China-based e-commerce giant Alibaba. Meanwhile, investors have called on the company to consider selling its “core,” including its advertising business and content sites.

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Meanwhile, many of the same shareholders have called for Mayer’s head. In a strongly worded letter criticizing Yahoo’s board and executive team earlier this month, Starboard Value chief Jeffrey Smith said that it’s time for Mayer to step down, adding that “the existing leadership continues to destroy” the company’s value.

“The Board must accept that significant changes are desperately needed,” Smith wrote in his letter. “This would include changes in management, changes in Board composition, and changes in strategy and execution.”

In that letter, Smith wrote that he is aware of interest in the company’s core business and it’s incumbent upon Yahoo to at least consider those offers.

For more, read Yahoo Employees Brace For More Expected Layoffs.

In response, Yahoo said that it was in the midst of a “multiyear transition” and is “more focused” on its operation. It did little, however, to quell investor unrest. Indeed, the company’s shares are down over 10% since the start of the year and over 35% since last January.

The troubles at Yahoo are myriad and debate rages over how much the actual core business is worth. As of this writing, the company’s market cap stands at $27.4 billion. Some analysts have argued that if the more than $30 billion stake in Alibaba is stripped away, Yahoo’s core business is worthless. More bullish supporters, however, say that it could fetch billions in a sale to another company.

For her part, Mayer has kept a brave face as investors have fled. Since she took the CEO job in 2012, Mayer has acquired several major companies, including Tumblr, and built up a content team designed to keep users on Yahoo’s sites. Ultimately, her goal has been to boost advertising revenue. Smith, however, have said along with many shareholders that since Mayer’s tenure began, “each quarter is worse than the last.”

In a renewed bid to fix Yahoo after the board ditched its plan to spin off Alibaba, a report surfaced earlier this month saying Yahoo was considering cutting as much as 10% of its more than 10,000-employee headcount. Sources told The Post on Monday that the actual layoff count could inch its way to 25%.

For more on Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, watch our video:

Those reports have understandably given Yahoo employees some pause and perhaps makes Mayer’s comments far less funny than she reportedly wanted them to be. Indeed, the employee, who refused to be named, told The Post that Mayer’s comments are precisely why “employee morale is so low” at the company.

A Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment on the report, saying that the company’s policy is to not report on “rumors and speculation.”

However, the writing appears to be on the wall: Trouble abounds at Yahoo and it’s no laughing matter.

After all, unlike Mayer, not everyone will make tens of millions of dollars just for getting fired.