Billionaire Carl Icahn Hits eBay Over Corporate Governance, Seeks Split from PayPal

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By Vittorio Hernandez | February 26, 2014 11:08 AM EST

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After shaking up Apple's stocks, billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn has shifted his attention to eBay.

He released on Tuesday an open shareholder letter to the popular ecommerce site, hitting its corporate governance and pushing that it separate from PayPal.

In his letter, the majority shareholder in eBay accused the company's board of completely disregarding accountability. Mr Icahn accused eBay CEO John Donahoe of sleeping on the job or being "naïve or willfully blind."

He proposed the creation of two dedicated and highly focus independent enterprises that would provide its employees and shareholders the best opportunity to remain competitive over the long term.

He said economic decisions must be independent of each other, foster innovation and provide more valuable currency for future bolt-on acquisition opportunities.

Among the questions he raised over eBay's board members are at least two who directly compete with the company, one routinely funds rivals and two place their own financial gain ahead. Mr Icahn identified the first two as Marc Andreeseen and Scott Cook.

In pushing for the separation of PayPal, which co-founder David Yammer said could become the largest financial company in the world, Mr Icahn also cited the other PayPal co-founder Elon Musk who said, "It doesn't make sense that a global payment system is a subsidiary of an auction website," comparing it to grocery giant Target owning Visa.

He charged Mr Donahoe of not only failing to address eBay's corporate governance crisis but also described his general leadership of the auction site as myopic.

In pushing for fresh stockholder representation of eBay's board, Mr Icahn cited the examples of other technology companies burdened by a management team and board that refused to adapt, resulting in these firms becoming losers.

He pointed to the cases of Nokia, BlackBerry, Dell, Eastman Kodak, Polaroid, Nintendo, Xerox, Sony, Palm and AOL.

Mr Icahn is not the first to warn of eBay board's poor governance. Four years ago, this warning was made via YouTube.

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However, Mr Donahoe insists that eBay and PayPal are better together. Quoting the eBay CEO, Forbes wrote, "Ebay has accelerated and enhanced PayPal's success, allowing it to be more aggressive, bolder and take more risks than if it was separate."

PayPal President David Marcus agreed, saying, "We are growing faster in this configuration that we would in any other."

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(Photo: REUTERS / )
Online payment processing firm PayPal has introduced another of its over-the-counter payment scheme, this time around through the use of the now ubiquitous smartphones.
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