EBay CEO Whitman Preparing to Retire: WSJ

EBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman, one of the most powerful women in business, is preparing to retire from the online auctioneer, the Wall Street Journal said on Tuesday.

A departure by the Silicon Valley veteran would come at a time when one of the best-known companies on the Internet is trying to recapture the runaway growth that made it into a household name.

But Whitman, 51, would also be following her own advice that no CEO should stay more than a decade in the job, a philosophy that reflects the unassuming character which made her popular among the sellers who use eBay's auction site.

John Donahoe, the 47-year-old president of eBay's auction business unit, is the leading candidate to succeed Whitman, said the newspaper, quoting unidentified sources.

The report said the departure could be announced within weeks, although it also added that the situation "remains fluid." Whitman had recently begun delegating more daily responsibilities and was completing succession plans, it said.

EBay spokesman Hani Durzy declined to comment.

Under Whitman's leadership, eBay has turned into one of the most-visited sites on the Internet.

But the company's growth has weakened in recent years. A slower core auctions business, rising competition from online retailers and missteps with the acquisition of online communications company Skype have cut the stock price nearly in half compared from its peak three years ago.

Last October it announced a $1.4 billion write-down of its investment in Skype.

The shares closed at $28.33 in Nasdaq trade on Friday, down from their highs of nearly $60 in late 2004.

After a Decade

EBay, which is due to announce its fourth-quarter results on Wednesday, had only a few dozen employees at the time Whitman joined as president and CEO in early 1998. It held its initial public offering six months later.


About the time she joined, Whitman said, "No CEO should stay more than a decade in the same job," arguing that executives need fresh challenges and organizations need new perspectives.

Donahoe, who is president of the core marketplaces business, has been seen as a leading contender for the top job if Whitman were to leave.

He joined eBay nearly three years ago in March 2005, and now runs the biggest of the three business segments that make up eBay -- marketplaces, PayPal online payments and Skype communications.

Prior to joining eBay, Donahoe was the worldwide managing director of Bain & Co, where he oversaw the consulting firm's 29 offices and 3,000 employees.

He also previously held jobs at corporate phone equipment maker Rolm and at Salomon Brothers, now a unit of Citi.

He took an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth University and a business degree from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.