Last month, a Valleywag tipster overhead top Google executives openly discussing when Mayer would leave the company, which hired her straight out of grad school more than 10 years ago. Mayer has belatedly denied our report in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a German newspaper. Here's what she said, stilted translation and all:
It is important for me to say: I've no plans to leave Google. I am very happy at Google. And I will be at Google for the next years. I work for Google for ten years. It is my whole live [sic]. The people who know me well - Eric, Larry, Sergey - they never even asked me if the story is true. That was only an Internet rumor.
And Google is only an Internet search engine.
It is true that Mayer is close to the troika that runs Google — CEO Eric Schmidt and cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. She even dated Page for a while, early in the company's history. She's now engaged to Zack Bogue, a lawyer and property manager who looks good in a tux and flew to Paris to pop the question. (Great catch!)
But if her departure was just an "Internet rumor," why were her colleagues talking about it at a holiday party? And why did she take so long to say anything about it? The excuse she gave the FAZ was that she was away on vacation in Africa when the story broke. I suppose that's some kind of dig on the continent's lack of connectivity, but a pretty weak one.
There are two other explanations: One, that her colleagues dislike her so much that they keep hoping she will leave. The second is that Mayer is savvy enough to realize that she has leverage. Mayer, an attractive Midwestern blonde, often serves as the public face of the company, a role in which Schmidt, Page, and Brin, are completely inept. Could she have spread the talk of a departure, or even made plans to take a new job, and then waited for her pals at the top of Google to make her an offer she couldn't refuse so she'd stay?
Google just tossed hundreds of millions of dollars of new stock options at its employees, who have grown restless over the company's sinking share price. A new contract for Mayer would hardly be noticeable wrapped into that larger giveaway. If that's what happened, then we're more impressed with Mayer than ever.