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A Harsh Look at eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar

Is eBay founder Pierre Omidyar “the consummate passive-aggressive predator”? That’s what Pando Daily called him in an article that takes a harsh look at the role the eBay chairman played in eBay’s acquisition of a stake in Craigslist and the way eBay then used confidential Craigslist data to launch a “Craigslist killer.”

The publication brought readers up to date on the litigation between eBay and Craigslist: “In August, attorneys for classified site Craigslist filed their latest complaint in a years-long legal fight in which Craigslist claims Omidyar and other eBay executives plotted to steal trade secrets in order to launch their own rival classifieds sites.”

But the blog went much further than any mainstream publication had dared – it asked the question, who is the real Pierre Omidyar, and it dug through years of court documents to try and find out. The picture it painted of Omidyar and his cohorts was not flattering.

It also reminded readers that despite the fact U.S. prosecutors launched a criminal probe into whether eBay employees including Omidyar had misappropriated confidential information from Craigslist, “more than three years after subpoenas were issued, no criminal charges have been brought against Omidyar or anyone else at eBay.”

Having covered most of the corporate governance trial in person in Delaware, we can confirm some of Pando’s takeaways – after the ruling, EcommerceBytes published a blog post in which we said we suspected the judge was taken aback at the cavalier manner in which eBay’s representatives on Craigslist’s Board admitted using confidential Craigslist data to launch eBay’s own competing site.

eBay sellers have their own opinions about Omidyar. Some see him as the visionary that launched a marketplace on which they built a thriving business. Others see him as the founder who broke his oft-repeated promise of a level playing field where large brands and chainstores would not receive special treatment.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.