Despite layoffs, this kind of brain drain of needed talent is happening at all levels, even those close to Mayer. Consider Shweta Vohra, who worked on strategy for Mayer directly and is now chief of staff to CEO Evan Williams of Medium.
Vohra is just the kind of smart and ambitious young exec that Yahoo can ill afford to lose, especially as it tries to move forward the spin process for the core Internet assets. That work is being handled in large part by new Mayer favorite Ian Weingarten, who is SVP of corporate development and partnerships at Yahoo.
At the same time in the next weeks, the interest in buying Yahoo from outsiders will also increase as a number of possible buyers start to make real moves. Let's be clear: Right now there is not what one would call an active sale process going on inside Yahoo, although it has plenty of advisers around, including Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.
But there is a much quieter trend of still muted incoming interest from large telcos (Verizon, AT&T), private equity firms (TPG) and media giants (News Corp.)
Most peg the cost of buying Yahoo — after the core is separated from its Alibaba Group assets — to be from $6 billion to $8 billion
"The question is are we serious or are we just making it seem so to stave off activists," said one person close to the board of Yahoo. "It is our fiduciary duty to engage and we will always do our fiduciary duty, even if we are not proactively trying to do anything."
Looking busy is perhaps the most important thing that Mayer needs to project next week, especially with the looming possibility of a proxy fight. The size of that battle which will start to be clear in February when sources says persistent Yahoo thorn Starboard Value seems set to nominate a slate of new directors (check out the slate it put up when it was fighting AOL in 2012 to some clues to the kinds of board members it will choose).