Major Obama donor to head No. 1 online news site

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Major Obama donor and former Google executive Marissa Mayer will take the helm at Yahoo! as the company’s new CEO Tuesday, Yahoo! announced late Monday afternoon.

Mayer was Google’s 20th employee and the company’s first female engineer, joining the company in 1999. She is credited as the genius behind several of Google’s most successful products, including Gmail, Google’s homepage and Google News. More recently, she was responsible for Google Maps, Street View and Google Earth.

Mayer will replace Yahoo! interim CEO Ross Levinsohn, making her the company’s fifth CEO in five years. She will also join the company’s board of directors.

In May, Neilsen listed the Yahoo-ABC News Network as the leading news site on the Web in the U.S., making Mayer the head of the largest news site on the Web. She is also a major donor to both President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in April 2011 Mayer donated two separate amounts of $2,500 dollars to Obama, and one large sum of $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee.

Data from political data firm Aristotle, as reported by the Huffington Post, reveals that, in the second quarter of 2011, Mayer also contributed $35,800 to Obama Victory Fund 2012.

Asked whether Mayer’s political leanings would affect the editorial direction of Yahoo!, neither Yahoo! nor Mayer returned TheDC’s request for comment by the time of publication. [Full Disclosure: TheDC and Yahoo! have an editorial partnership.]

Plagued by CEO troubles, along with a faltering reputation in Silicon Valley, Yahoo! has been in need of not only a facelift, but a significant turnaround.

The company recently held its longtime ally, Facebook, hostage in a patent dispute, charging that several of Facebook’s prominent technologies — including the News Feed — infringed upon Yahoo! patents. The two companies recently agreed upon an advertising partnership in June, and Yahoo! called the lawsuit off.

A New York Times report on Monday said Mayer, who was first approached in June about the job, resigned from Google on Monday afternoon by telephone. The report, though, also suggested that it was unlikely that Mayer would make Yahoo! a direct competitor of Google’s search business.

Yahoo!’s focus over the past decade has been towards content and media, but Mayer’s unanimous appointment by the Yahoo! board of directors marks a new era for the company with an eye toward product development.

“The board of directors unanimously agreed that Marissa’s unparalleled track record in technology, design, and product execution makes her the right leader for Yahoo! at this time of enormous opportunity,” said Fred Amoroso, chairman of the board of directors, in a prepared statement.

“Yahoo!’s products will continue to enhance our partnerships with advertisers, technology and media companies, while inspiring and delighting our users,” Mayer said in a prepared statement Monday. “There is a lot to do and I can’t wait to get started.”

Yahoo!’s stock closed down on Monday at $15.65 per share, gaining .33 points in after-hours trading.

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