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Tue Jan 22 2008 10:02:03

eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

By: Ina Steiner

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When the venerable Wall Street Journal writes something that other outlets have been reporting for weeks, it becomes news. The financial newspaper said eBay CEO Meg Whitman is preparing to step down, with a decision that "could come within weeks, though the situation remains fluid." The paper pegs John Donahoe as Whitman's successor.

The WSJ does not speculate on what Meg will do upon retirement and fails to mention what others have noted: Whitman's fervent campaigning on behalf of presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Some believe a Romney win could place Whitman in a cabinet position (Secretary of Commerce has been floated). The more intriguing question is not whether Whitman will step down, but rather, what she would do if Romney fails to get the nomination.

Photo: John Donahoe (left), surrounded by enthusiastic eBay employees during the 2005 eBay Live conference.

Owen Thomas of the gossip newsletter Valleywag had a good analysis of Meg's reign: He points out that it can be divided into two parts: 1998 - 2005 ("the lucky years"), and 2005 - 20008 (when eBay has struggled). He notes that it was in 2005 that John Donahoe joined the company. While that's true, it's also the year Whitman failed to get the top job at Disney and seemed to lose her infallibility.

Donahoe comes from consulting firm Bain & Co (he, Whitman and Romney are all Bainies). In an interview with the Financial Times last month, Donahoe said he has been on a mission to bring eBay up to date, and he claimed more changes for the site in the past 12 months than the previous four to five years combined. Donahoe strongly believes in innovating the user experience on the platform, so for eBay sellers who may have hoped the changes would soon end, don't count on it.

All eyes are on eBay as it reports earnings on Wednesday. (Which analyst will draw short-straw to ask about Meg's retirement during the post-earnings conference call?)

Note that a paid subscription is required to access Wall Street Journal articles.

Comments (13) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: Randy Smythe

Tue Jan 22 13:02:24 2008

Its funny that once the WSJ writes about it, everyone picks up on it.

Ina, I've read every post about her leaving and I like yours the best. Even better than my own.

eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: RichardC

Tue Jan 22 13:31:54 2008

Ina, It will be quite interesting how any regime change will affect sellers attitude towards eBay. Meg is getting out at an opportune time, when both Amazon, Overstock, and UBID have grown to a point of attracting more sellers and buyers, because of their straight forward approach to selling items.

Really, When I think of eBay, I think of  Meg and Pierre. But times change.


eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: Whitney

Tue Jan 22 14:07:25 2008

That news of Meg leaving ebay just made my month! :) I hope the new CEO might care about the sellers for a change!

eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: Nomore

Tue Jan 22 16:58:39 2008

Buyers have spoken against e-bays policy of negative feedback left for buyers from sellers who never ship their items.  

eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: Jeff

Tue Jan 22 19:15:06 2008

She can't leave fast enough. Good riddance. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Unfortunately the hand groomed successor, whoever it is, will be nothing more than a clone. Lets have some real change. Lower the fees, loosen the Gestapo controls, stop with the nickel and dime features that cost cost cost and destabilize the site. I say it again, good riddance. Bring back SKIPPY.

eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: Alex

Tue Jan 22 19:50:32 2008

Hopefully eBay's board will seek someone younger, with a fresh new vision & a love for the type of unique company eBay has been & can be again.

Continuing with anyone that is top management now will just be more of the same. A clean sweep is needed if the site is to ever be rejuvenated...

Mr Donahoe has already expressed disdain for eBay's ''flea market'' image. He - like Meg has forgotten who brought them to the dance. These folks act like they hate their customers, and make no bones about it. Is this a recipe for continued success ??

They have forgotten, eBay is a service business, not a tech company or a giant retail site. They manufacture no product, nor to they actually sell any product of their own.

eBay's ''product'' is service. And that ''product'' has been declining in quality for some time. Trust & safety issues, site stability & security, customer service - you name it. Every area is woefully lacking, for a company of this supposed stature & financial worth.

Whomever is next in the hot seat will have to address these things promptly & throughly.

This very important change at the top can be the beginning of a breathtaking turn around of a now declining company, or a continuance of the current sad state of what was once the greatest, most respected, trusted & talked about site on the internet.

Time will tell.....

eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: Another Wronged Seller

Wed Jan 23 15:23:16 2008

The retirement of Meg Whitman is ovrdue.

Ebay has been rudderless for quite a while now in my opinion. I only hope the new CEO will understand the most basic things about ebay which the current crop of ''management'' seems to have forgotten:

1. The sellers are our customers. They pay ALL the fees and outside of advertising revenue, generate all of ebays (and paypals) revenue.

2. KISS- Keep it simple stupid. Ebay has created the most convoluted set of policies I have ever seen (aside from the tax code). From listing policies, VERO, Seller Non performance, DSR's, etc...

3. Keep the site working! The numerous site problems from multi order shipping, search problems, items not appearing, paypal glitches, etc.. ahev been hugely disruptive to the sellers. We pay the price for it in negative feedbacks, lower sales, INR complaints, potential SNP restriction, etc...

4. Non existant customer service. Enough said!

5. Stop the constant tinkering with the site! Change for changes sake is not good management. It's disruptive to both buyers and sellers alike.

The best advice I could give the incoming CEO would be to stop treating the sellers as criminals and start treating them as valued customers. Anything that ebay could do to make it easier for us to sell would also improve their bottom line through increased listings and completed sales. In other words, stop raising fees to increase revenue! Do it the right way through higher sell through for the sellers. More sales for sellers equals more revenue for ebay.

Ger rid of the crazy policies that make no sense. If you have an item that you sell in perhaps 100 color/ size combinations, ebay requires you to put up 100 auction listings ( for 100 listing fees) NO stand alone retailer puts up a seperate listing on their website for each color and size. I could name a hundred examples easily of non-sensical policies. Make policies that make sense!

The migration of sellers to other venues ( myself included) I believe has been fueled by the BS on the site. It is just plain easier to sell on Amazon and other sites. Simpler listing, policies, REAl customer service, decent sales = less BS.

I think the only reason sellers stick with ebay is because of the huge potential customer base. I often wonder if ebay had an equal in the customer base would they treat the sellers with such a lack of respect? ( Google are you reading this?) This customer base will continue to erode as sellers leave the site creating less variety and less price competition. If the buyers can't find an item or find it at a higher price because there are only 5 sellers listing an item versus 10, it will become less and less attractive to shop on ebay for the buyers.

Using Amazon as an example (but you could use others) on what level is ebay out-performing amaazon except in large numbers of buyers looking at your items?

Customer service? Fair fees? Simplicity of listing? Straightforward policies? Fair treatment of sellers?

I would only hope that a new CEO has basic common sense and the vision to get back to basics.

eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: L

Thu Jan 24 00:29:29 2008

Ditto everything commented by ''Another Wronged Seller'' (above).  Great post !

And my emphasis again on the above point made:
''Stop the constant tinkering with the site! Change for change's sake is not good management. It's disruptive to both buyers and sellers alike.''


eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: Christopher

Thu Jan 24 01:48:46 2008

I would like to think that Meg leaving is a good thing however I have a feeling that it will just be more of the same - or worse. I think that all of the top people at ebay are to blame for some of the problems, not just Meg.

From what I have read the new guy was the main person that came up with idea of putting advertising on ebay that takes buyers to other sites. In my opinion that has to be one of the worst ideas out of all the changes in the last few years. So does that mean we can expect more of that type change? Probably. It is going to take someone that will listen to sellers and I am not sure this is the guy.

I honestly think we are going to get more of the same no matter whos in the CEO seat. Until ebay gets some MAJOR competition they have no reason to change things because sellers have no other venue to go to. Yes Amazon and a few other sites are stealing more ebay sellers away but I don't think its enough to really worry ebay yet. Amazon could be some serious competition but many people don't know they have auctions or that you can buy from other sellers like you do on ebay. Until Amazon or Google starts taking buyers and SELLERS away they are not going to change for the better like sellers need.

eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: RK

Thu Jan 24 08:17:52 2008

Anyone thinking that any good will come out of this change in management is dillusional.

Having a new CEO that has been groomed (cloned) from the Whitman mold is only going to be a disaster for sellers.

If you don't think Donahoe will have his own agenda for power and try to excel over the Whitman image...I have a bridge to sell you!

Do you really believe the rhetoric that is spewed is going to be for the good of both buyers and sellers. How many years has it been since eBay cared about the sellers or the buyers? Pre-Whitman era!!! Do ya think that all of a sudden that's going change??

Do you really think that eBay is going to become a warm and fuzzy user friendly company after all these years of greed?

Instead of totally messing up the feedback system and searches...more time should be given to the content of the ridiculous nauseating tv commercials.

The commercials are geared for morons...if in the even they have any money. Then of course eBay thinks all sellers and buyers are stupid and can be manipulated.

eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: Justine

Thu Jan 24 15:10:11 2008

They make it sound like we all should be so thrilled. Well, don't get your hopes up.  The new CEO is Meg's protege. He's just as anti-seller and anti-store as she was. Many of the anti-seller Big Brother Gestapo initiatives we're all fed up with are his brain-children. Meg will continue working closely with him in an "advisory" capacity for another year. Yeah, right. A big regime change.  Whoop- dee- doo! Who are they kidding?  Sellers would be wise to continue making other plans and finding other venues. It's just more of the same-old, same-old.

eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: allyssabeth

Thu Jan 24 18:05:13 2008

And what about Bill Cobb? Won't he be a bit slighted by being passed over? Donahoe is the one responsible for the "Buyer Experience" (choke)improvements(double-choke)! Don't even think things will get better under him. This is going from the frying pan to the fire. They need a whole new cast and crew in the head offices who actually appreciate their real customers, the SELLERS.

eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ   eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Retire Says WSJ

by: Fruity

Thu Jan 24 22:50:46 2008

Good riddance Bill Cobb you idiot. In case you haven't figured it out, you weren't even important enough for them to mention your name in the same room.

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