Hi everyone, I'm Greg Holden, author and regular contributor to AuctionBytes. I'll be live-blogging the annual eBay Annual Meeting of Stockholders from San Jose, California. I'm not in San Jose, unfortunately. I'm in cloudy and chilly Chicago, looking in from a computer screen. I'm not expecting controversy of the sort that enlivened last year's eBay Live, but who knows? The people at PETA will probably do their best to make things lively. We'll see.
The topics to be discussed are:
1. To vote on the election of Marc L. Andreessen, William C. Ford, Jr., Dawn G. Lepore, Pierre M. Omidyar and Richard T. Schlosberg, III as directors, to hold office until our 2012 Annual Meeting of Stockholders.
2. To approve amendments to certain of our existing equity incentive plans to allow for a one-time stock option exchange program for employees other than our named executive officers and directors.
3. To approve the amendment and restatement of our 2008 Equity Incentive Award Plan to increase the aggregate number of shares authorized for issuance under the plan by 50 million shares and to add market share and volume metrics as performance criteria under the plan.
4. To ratify the selection of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP as our independent auditors for our fiscal year ending December 31, 2009.
5. To transact such other business as may properly come before the meeting or any adjournment or postponement of the meeting.
As you probably know, Marc Andreessen helped invent the first graphical Web browser, Mosaic (later called Netscape), while a student at the University of Illinois. Now he's on the board of directors of eBay. What does that say about the evolution of the Web?
More to come...
While we're waiting for this meeting to begin (it's late), I might note that tickets to the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting are being offered on eBay for $5.. Do you think tickets to eBay's own annual meeting would fetch a price on eBay?
(It's started now...)
Pierre Omidyar (founder and Chairman of the Board) has begun the official annual shareholders meeting.
"...able to respond to appropriate questions." Wish Pierre would define the word "appropriate."
Ina and I are noticing how many board members are attending not in person but through eBay's own Skype. Doesn't anyone want to go to California?
Each of the items up for vote was approved, and without discussion. John Donahoe will now give a presentation. (Standard disclosure from eBay about forward-looking statements.)
Remarks by John Donahoe: eBay sellers are in attendance! Good for them! Make this interesting! A commercial for Skype. Nice work, John.
"our mission as a company has been to connect buyers and sellers." I wonder if the stockholders would truly agree. Since eBay is public, is the mission not to make money? I'm just askin'. "...In what is a very changing Internet environment." I wish Donahoe would elaborate on this - does it mean eBay has (shudder) more competition?
"...while generating strong returns for you, our shareholders..." I think the shareholders would have something to say about this, as the stock has performed poorly of late.
"It will grow with very changing customer behaviors." True, more people will be buying online, and more people will be looking for bargains. So logically, you would think more people will be shopping on eBay.
"...we see customer behavior shifting over the next five years..." Seems more like five months to me; more and more people (including me) are already shopping on their cell phones and other devices.
"I will show you how we are positioning our company to win in the future." PayPal now has more volume than eBay? I did not know that. Wow.
It is interesting that Donahoe is starting out talking not about auctions or eBay Stores but about PayPal. It's always good to start with good news.
"eBay was tremendously successful in the e-commerce environment of the past, but e-commerce is shifting and moving." Hm, looks like we are going to hear about changes at eBay. I'm tingling with excitement!
- eBay Playbook needs to be updated based on what buyers and sellers expect in "today's online world."
-Auctions used to be a strategy; now it is just one of several sales formats.
-No more simply tweaking the eBay model but *transforming* it.
(More focus on customer driven innovation; Auctions is a format and a choice; We are evolving our company to provide choice.)
More classifieds, more StubHub, more ways to connect buyers and sellers.
"We are creating the "new eBay."" Sounds like New Coke.
Donahoe is expecting eBay to be behind the market for a while, then with the market, then ahead of the market in 2011. This is sort of what we expected them to say - just give us a few years and we'll do fine.
Yes, we love Skype. But we never think of it as part of eBay.
So it will be made an IPO in 2010 because of "limited synergies with eBay and PayPal." In other words, buyers and sellers don't really need it. It's a nice frill.
Question Time. Let's have some fun!
Tony Mezzapelli (sic), shareholder: "I came here because my shares have gone down 50 percent." (He is the first person to acknowledge this.) "Why haven't these changes happened sooner? Don't we have a lot of world-class analytics and data mining people who can keep us in real time on top of changes in the business?" Good questions.
Donahoe does not respond to the comment about share prices going down. I guess I can't blame him.
"Other competition has moved faster."
That's honest. Amazon.com is moving faster. What I'm seeing from the stories I am doing for AuctionBytes is that smaller marketplaces give better service and communication to buyers and sellers and are being more innovative, more quickly. Isn't this just the problem all successful businesses face as they grow into big entitles? Donahoe talks about the search experience and this is important but other sites are letting customers do discussions with prospective customers and other innovative features like the Daily Deal.
Next questioner: Concerned about privacy. What are you doing to ensure that buyers' privacy is protected? Asks Pierre a flurry of questions about past history. Unfortunately, gives eBay a chance to avoid controversial questions.
Pierre on privacy: Companies need to be very clear about what they disclose with regard to customer data. I hope you will hold us to that standard.
Pierre on starting the company: Came to U.S. when 6 years old; Strong entrepreneurial culture in the Valley; risk taking is rewarded here. I was trying to create a service that I would find useful and that others would find useful. Creating a product that would bring people together, that was based on the notion that people were basically good. The business aspect came later.
While Pierre talks about philosophy I am reflecting on Donahoe's comment that in 2011 the company will be growing ahead of the marketplace so it looks like he is saying it will take two years rather than three for eBay to get back on track.
Aren't there any other questions?
PETA, where are you?
What about the possibility of issuing stock dividends? Looks like eBay got off easy to me.