Report: eBay's Meg Whitman to Retire

Posted by: Rob Hof on January 22, 2008

Longtime eBay CEO Meg Whitman is readying her retirement before long, according to the Wall Street Journal. Given that she’s just about to come up on the 10 years she once said was about as long as a CEO should stick around at a company, I’m not surprised. (Update: eBay just announced it, effective March 31. That was quick. She’ll stay on the board. But it looks like Bill Cobb, president of eBay North America, is the odd man out, and he’ll retire at the end of the year.)

It may even be a good time for the transition: eBay’s strategy for recharging its flagging auction business, or at least figuring out what’s going to help it regain leadership in e-commerce to make up for that maturing business, still isn’t clear to many people. That was made all the more obvious last year, when eBay wrote down a large portion of its purchase of Internet phone service provider Skype.

Now, eBay needs a leader who is committed to the next few years of transition, and it will be John Donahoe, president of eBay Marketplaces, the auction arm. I think eBay still has a lot going for it, despite losing some ground to a resurgent Amazon.com and facing continuing criticism from its sellers. And Whitman has to be credited with keeping such a singular business like eBay—really, a mini-economy made up of millions of buyers and sellers—on such a long growth trajectory.

But its vision of where e-commerce is headed isn’t yet obvious to me and a lot of other people, and it will have to corral its many initiatives into a cohesive direction if it wants those sellers, and many more new ones, to come along.

Reader Comments

Michael Funk

January 22, 2008 12:22 PM

Whitman is a perfect example of someone who took a company with an almost perfect business model and proceeded to run it into the ground. Probably the only real good business decision in the past ten years was the acquisition of Paypal. What a legacy!

exebayseller

January 22, 2008 12:41 PM

Meg Retiring - Great news for ex-sellers, maybe they will come back once the rising listing and final value fees are lowered that she raised, which ultimately hurt ebay and drove sellers to AMAZON.

Fixingtheweb

January 22, 2008 1:20 PM

Outside of a couple of obvious missteps, such as purchasing Skype and waiting to purchase Paypal until eBay's own in-house payments system (Billpoint) had imploded, Meg's position is similar to that of Greenspan and Bernanke. Maintening the uber-delicate balance of the eBay economy isn't unlike that of our nation's. Stomp your feet all you want over fees. You lower fees so every object on the planet gets listed, THEN try to sell your stuff. Your think its difficult to sell your stuff now, just wait until there are 3X the listings. Supply and demand people. Meg has done just fine.

Dave

January 22, 2008 2:11 PM

Finally, now we can hope to see EBAY up to around $44 by May and higher later in the year. Marketing is what is all about, and with the slow down in so many sectors what better way to sell your goods without the overhead that so many other businesses have.

Charles Polanco

January 22, 2008 3:12 PM

Can I bid for the CEO spot?

Chris

January 22, 2008 3:21 PM

"She led the company through its September 1998 initial public offering, and eBay has since delivered more than 40 consecutive quarters of sequential revenue growth. Profit has increased every year and the company now has 248 million registered users globally and 15,000 employees. Its $5.97 billion in revenue last year marked a big jump from revenue of $86 million in 1998."

She's done a great job. I think change is generally very good, and I'd bet on an EBAY merger in the near future.

AnotherExBaySeller

January 22, 2008 3:32 PM

Well said exebayseller. That was a dumb move. We got out of a ebay business because of that. The margins were already very thin to begin with. It just ain't worth it anymore after they raised the fees.

Kris

January 22, 2008 4:33 PM

I almost never used eBay to buy or sell. Strongly prefer Craigslist or Amazon.

Tom Donohue, NewsVisual

January 22, 2008 5:07 PM

During the past decade since joining eBay, Whitman led the company through its 1998 IPO and saw annual revenue increase from $86 million that year to nearly $6 billion in 2007. Despite the company’s success, analysts and investors are concerned that the rate of revenue growth has slowed in recent years. In this case, new leadership may be a good option for sparking new ideas and subsequent growth.

John Whelan

January 22, 2008 5:31 PM

Meg Whitman ran Ebay like a mature business from the beginning. She surrounded herself with ex management consultants from Bain & Co. (her alma mater), none of whom had any real entrepreneurial instincts or any real creativity. This proceeded to cause Ebay to die a slow death and failed to realize the opportunities of Paypal and Skype. Well managed Paypal had an opportunity to become a $50 billion company by itself, Skype too. So long Meg, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

rabbit

January 22, 2008 10:40 PM

I definately doubt it.

Tom

January 22, 2008 11:27 PM

It's easy to say that eBay's dominant position in the auction business made it a fait accompli that success in 2008 would follow. But lest we forget, scaling a company from $86 million in revenue to $5.8 billion in just 10 years without a single misstep (i.e. quarterly earning decrease) is *never* a given.

Was she a great innovator? No, but her people certainly did innovate enough to make the eBay experience a positive one over the years, and to retain and grow its customer base. I don't know much about the nuts and bolts of her management style, and Skype was certainly a misstep, but I would say, based on performance alone, Meg Whitman must be ranked in the top 5 tech CEOs of the last decade, and that's pretty elite company. And unlike Bill Gates, she knows when to ride into the sunset. Kudos, and good luck to her.

Scott

January 22, 2008 11:36 PM

I definitely agree with John Whelan on the unmet potential of Paypal and Skype. With that said, I think it should be stated that despite great potential in theory, each property becoming the global standard was never a forgone conclusion, so overall I think Meg has done a good job, mostly demonstrated by tremendous growth, profitability and the establishment of a strong global footprint (which in retrospect seemed inevitable, but in actuality was no small feat).

To elaborate on the unmet potential, I believe that Paypal and Skype both were the right acquisitions at the right time, for the right price, but neither were leveraged in the way that I expected.

Paypal captures a large percentage of online transactions, but actually captures only a very small fraction of the total global transactions....any semi-optimistic technologist certainly believed that a much higher percentage of total transactions would take place via the web, and Paypal is largely credited with stalling this industry. I think their fee structure is not conducive to everyday banking, and surprisingly Amazon has made MUCH more progress toward making micro-payments a viable possibility (though still not enough for it to catch on yet).

Regarding Skype...ATT and a tiny company (Vonage) beat Skype to the punch in actually creating a VOIP experience that has a fraction of a chance of replacing traditional phones. I know this was not Skype's focus, but maybe that is part of the problem...Skype is now just one of a dozen commodotized options for internet telephony...I think everyone expected Skype to build on its lead and leverage the network effect to become the standard...I know I did.

Carlo A.

January 23, 2008 1:27 AM

the day she leaves I would expect a short term rally in ebay stock.

Sven Dobren

January 23, 2008 1:14 PM

At first I was excited about ebay, Until I received my first negative feedback from a seller, who never shipped my what I paid for in advance. It was in retaliation for the negative feedback I left for them for not sending me what I paid for. The whole rating thing with ebay has got to go. I've heard a lot of sellers and buyers alike complain about ebay. People have spoken with their dollar, and gone somewhere else.

unhappyebayer

January 27, 2008 11:33 AM

Since Meg Whitman joined Ebay- she has literally driven it into the ground. There are more "not a registered user"(s) within the past year or two - not because they committed a violations - but because they can't pay their fees which are overinflated-leaving no room for "the little people" (sellers and buyers) who have made EBAY the monster they have become. I've been with ebay for sometime now... as a buyer and seller.. and as both - i've watched it go down the tubes slowly. Sellers have to increase their shipping and handling to see the light of a dollar after so many fees increases.(regardless if the items sells or not) so the sellers and are feeling the crunch.
Ms. Whitman has made Ebay a Horror to deal with. I personally know of some sellers on ebay that had to get ANOTHER Real job to pay their ebay fees-hoping to maintain their status with ebay-thinking that things will get better. Ms. Whitman's "retirement" from ebay hopefully will give some insight to her replacement.. and bring Ebay back down off the crystal chandeliers -back to earth. I believe nothing until i see it .Her unjustified Salary was of ridiculous amount-plus the fact that she had her hands in so many other "pies" that overlapped/ interlapped with ebay.. seemed like a "CONFLICT OF INTEREST'. IE: sellers that were listing items from "THE GAP" for a much lower price than the store itself... would find that their listings were posted several hours later - purposely with no justifiable excuse.. meanwhile She had financia interest in "the GAP". I'm still going to shop around for another auction site-and i know i'm NOT ALONE.

carlos

June 17, 2008 4:32 PM

te la mando para que la escuche es diferente a la que tiene franklin

Post a comment

 

About

Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

Categories

 

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!