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'Project cardinal' was the secret code that brought Marissa Mayer to Yahoo

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Marissa Mayer Yahoo (STOCK)
Marissa Mayer Yahoo (STOCK)

Marissa Mayer has been under a magnifying glass since departing her senior executive role at Google to lead Yahoo's rebirth. And while much has been said about the loose spending and acclaimed app launches that have come under her stewardship, relatively little is known about how she actually landed the job. In its profile of Mayer as CEO, Bloomberg Businessweek has revealed new details on her pursuit of the chief executive spot. At times, it played out like a spy thriller script. Still very much tied to Google in the early stages, Mayer hid her agenda under a secret code phrase — "project cardinal." She would need to say the code words aloud before a limo driver brought her to a covert meeting with Yahoo's board.

And despite her impressive Mountain View résumé, Mayer wasn't confident she was a lock for the position. In fact, during a dinner party which saw her husband chatting it up with football legend Joe Montana, Mayer was initially convinced Yahoo had chosen someone else. But eventually the life-changing call came, and Mayer still has the voicemail saved on her iPhone. "Marissa, you should be smiling," it began. "We're smiling, too." If Marissa Mayer can eventually succeed in her mission of turning around a struggling web stalwart, those smiles will only grow bigger.