Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) is not a strong company despite the lessons its stock price seeks to impart. The company is planning on selling its Chinese subsidiary AliBaba to the public in the coming weeks or months, and it appears that most investors own a piece of poor-man’s-Google in order to expose themselves to the Chinese web giant. Today Fortune’s Jesse Hempel is asking if Marissa Mayer can save Yahoo!. A better question is whether the executive will stick around when AliBaba goes public.

Yahoo

Yahoo! is much much smaller than it appears at first glance. The company currently has a market cap of $36.78 billion, but it owns about $24 billion of AliBaba. With valuations for that company’s IPO ranging from $100-$150 billion that puts the value of core business at Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) somewhere between $12 billion and zero. Why would Marissa Mayer want to stick around a company like that, given her profile?

Can Marissa Mayer save Yahoo?

The question that everyone’s been asking since Marissa Mayer took the reigns at Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) is still being asked. The company has only made a couple of major public move since her appointment. Recent moves that appear to attempt to turn the company into a content publisher and creator have yet to show much in the way of success, and the company’s acquisition of Tumblr and thirty other startups have done little to change anything obvious at the company.

User numbers have stabilized and so have sales, but the company is not growing. Its efforts in video and its improvement of certain services are positives for the company, but they are not helping its advertising business to attract dollars. That’s where Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) makes almost all of its money, and the company’s CEO appears to have done little to address particular problems in that technology.

With Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) stock up massively since she joined the company, and the impending compression stemming from the sale of AliBaba stock, Marissa Mayer has a decision to make. Is it time to get out while the going’s good, or is it time to knuckle down and mould Yahoo into a business fit for investors.

Will Marissa Mayer stay at Yahoo?

There is not telling what Marissa Mayer thinks of her position at Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), but in terms of the development of a personal brand her current tenure has been just enough. A longer tenure at Yahoo, without the AliBaba cushion, could make her look like a less effective manager in the medium term. It may be a bad decision.

Mayer now has a national profile in certain circles, and she would be a great addition to many management teams, particularly ones that want to attract attention. She could also head a larger company looking for a new CEO, or, should her ambitions lie in that direction, begin her own project or even seek public office.

Marissa Mayer will have the world at her feet on the day before AliBaba goes public. Her decision about her future will have the most significant impact on the future of the company’s value, apart from the AliBaba spinoff. Whether or not Mayer can save Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) is not the most significant question. What matters is whether it’s worth her while to try.