EBAY: Time For CEO Meg Whitman to Go?

We realise this may sound like heresy, but we think it’s time for eBay shareholders to consider nudging CEO Meg Whitman out the door.

Meg is one of the Valley’s most celebrated and admired executives, and eBay did have an amazing run for a while. We will not be the first to suggest that Meg may have gotten a bit more credit than she deserved for that (If ever there was a business that mostly grew itself it was eBay), but what matters now is the future, and we increasingly believe that Meg is not the best person for the job…

In the past few years, as eBay’s core business has matured, Meg has overseen several decisions and non-decisions that were, at best, weak:

  • Failing to move the eBay brand perception beyond “auctions”–a retailing concept that will forever appeal to only a small segment of the overall retailing market.
  • Failing to focus on the core site interface, which for more than a decade has been considered a joke.
  • Buying Skype, which never had any real strategic synergy with eBay (despite several years of management insistence to the contrary), which distracted eBay from its core business, and which ultimately disappointed.
  • Failing to kill, buy, copy, or at least partner with Amazon, whose superior customer service and site has now become the gold standard for any consumer interested in an end-to-end research, buying, and fulfillment experience.

Are these mistakes fatal? No. eBay’s an impressive company with amazing opportunities. But it’s far from the world-beater it once seemed to be, and we think it could benefit from new perspective, new vision, and new blood.

For a while, we thought we were alone in this thinking, but in recent weeks we’ve heard it from others. Just yesterday, in fact, we caught up with one the smartest Internet investors we know, whose thoughts on the matter we hereby paraphrase:

eBay’s a good company and a cheap stock, so I always find myself wanting to own it. Then I go out there and meet with Meg and it’s all I can do to avoid shorting it as I walk out the door.

Disclosure: I have a long-term position in EBAY.

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