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Is Former eBay CEO John Donahoe Looking for a Job?

A new report indicates former eBay CEO John Donahoe may be looking for a job, having stepped down from the company in July after the breakup. His name was included in a report from Wall Street firm SunTrust Robinson Humphrey as someone who was suggested as a possible replacement for Marrisa Mayer as CEO of Yahoo – pure conjecture, since Mayer isn’t going anywhere.

SunTrust says its exercise in evaluating potential successors to Mayer is due to inquiries from investors about how a new CEO might impact the stock. But its own reports may be partially responsible for investors becoming impatient with Mayer, such as the SunTrust report in July in which it graded Mayer’s performance at Yahoo as a C.

Its report published today resulted in headlines such as this one from CNN, “Should Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer be fired?”

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Like Donahoe, Mayer inherited a company facing extreme challenges. And as Donahoe did, Mayer has repeatedly said reviving growth at her company would take multiple years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But while John Donahoe kept rolling out new 3-year turnaround plans each year with little progress shown, analysts were supportive of his strategies.

The case is different with Mayer – the Wall Street Journal reported last week Mayer’s investors have become impatient.

Despite the fact many of Donahoe’s pet projects at eBay have been canned and the company was broken up with some units sold off, SunTrust views Donahoe as a viable candidate to lead Yahoo.

SunTrust created three lists of potential Yahoo CEO candidates in its report:

1) Top Executives, but that are Unlikely to move from current role;
2) Top 10 Target Executives that were Mentioned the Most; and
3) Other Top Potential Yahoo CEO Executives.

Donahoe appears in the third list, which according to SunTrust was comprised of “all of the other extremely talented executives that were suggested to us, but just not to the frequency of the Top 10 from above.”

The Wall Street firm credited Donahoe with having “orchestrated turnaround of eBay.” It also endorsed Donahoe when it wrote, referring to all members of the third list, “Further, based on the feedback we have heard, we think this list is also filled with extremely successful and well qualified executives and that the stock would react positively, if there were a CEO search process and they were selected.”

It’s not known who suggested Donahoe as possible successor to Mayer and whether Donahoe himself was behind it. In an interview in the Huffington Post from April that starts out with, “The kind of person who winds up becoming the chief executive officer of a huge public company is not typically the kind of person who wants to be unemployed,” the 55-year-old Donahoe told the publication, “I honestly have no idea what I’m going to do next.”

Certainly getting one’s name on such lists can be an effective way to market yourself to company boards looking for a CEO.

And Donahoe has an advantage that other candidates may not: a friend on the board – former eBay executive Maynard Webb is Yahoo’s Chairman.

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Ina Steiner

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. Send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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