No Bull: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Is Big on Buffalo

Photograph by Jeff Chiu/AP Photo

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and her husband sponsored the bison paddock in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

Deep in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, which spans more than 50 city blocks, is a fenced-in area where several buffalo can be seen roaming around. Recently, a sign appeared in front that reads: “The Bison Paddock has been graciously supported by Marissa Mayer and Zachary Bogue.”

Yes, that Marissa Mayer.

The Yahoo chief executive officer and her husband have donated at least $20,000 in the past two years to the city’s parks, according to documents provided by the San Francisco Parks Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes open spaces. The organization hosts fundraisers, including the annual Party for the Parks that Mayer and Bogue have supported.

Mayer isn’t the only high-tech exec supporting this low-tech cause. David Sacks, who sold his company Yammer to Microsoft last year, donated at least $2,500 along with his wife Jacqueline for the September event, according to the documents. Spokeswomen for Yahoo and Yammer didn’t respond to requests for comment about the executives’ philanthropy.

Last year’s party also had a tech sponsor: Yelp. Jon Akerman, a community manager for the business review site, said the company supported the event because parks are popular on the service.

“Party for the Parks is a prime example of a local event that we love connecting our community to,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Backing buffalo isn’t necessarily the most unusual philanthropic effort by a tech business leader. Bill Gates’s foundation has placed a high priority on improving toilets, and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt’s foundation has been involved in preserving the homey feel of Nantucket, Massachusetts, by fending off boutique stores looking to cater to wealthy residents.

The sign in front of the Golden Gate Park bison paddock will be taken down later this year as part of the agreement, said Peter Tucker, a spokesman for the San Francisco Parks Alliance. This year’s Party for the Parks, which usually attracts 500 to 700 attendees, will be held on Sept. 20 at one of the park’s equestrian fields, Tucker said. Those who give at least $10,000 will be able to sponsor a park bench, which comes with a bronze-engraved plaque, and choose the location, he said.

Last year, top donors including Mayer were offered a sign in the park to honor their donation and were asked where they wanted it to be placed. It’s unclear why Mayer chose the American bison exhibit, but the former Google exec is known to appreciate the culinary appeal of the once-endangered species, according to Fortune. The article said she served herb-crusted roast bison loin at a barbecue she hosted at her home in 2011.

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