eBay CEO’s Plea To Tim Cook: Icahn Do This Alone

Investor activist Carl Icahn is at it again -- with eBay as the target this time.

Investor activist Carl Icahn is at it again — with eBay as the target this time.

Activist investor Carl Icahn is at it again — and Apple might be lending moral support to his latest target.

Tim Cook was reportedly one of several tech leaders, along with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who was consulted by eBay CEO John Donahoe for advice on how best to deal with Icahn.

Donahoe has been locked in conflict with Icahn regarding Icahn’s suggestion that eBay should spin PayPal off as its own company.

The disagreement has quickly escalated into a full-on feud. Icahn disclosed a 2.2% stake in eBay in January and has become its seventh-largest shareholder. “Their response has essentially been to say ‘we don’t want anyone raining on our parade — we’re the great eBay’,” Icahn noted in one interview. “I never walk away unless there’s a reason to walk away.”

eBay, for its part, has countered many of Icahn’s claims.

“When statements are made about our company that are factually inaccurate and misleading, then we owe it to our shareholders to set the record straight,” said eBay spokesperson Amanda Miller, said. While Icahn argues that there is money to be made by spinning the highly profitable PayPal out as its own entity, eBay argues that it provides PayPal with data, and a strong financial foundation that sets it up for success.

What business advice Cook gave Donahoe isn’t known — but he can certainly speak from experience.

Cook had his own clash with Apple shareholder Icahn late 2013 and early 2014. Icahn originally asked Apple to repurchase $150 billion worth of stock, but later dropped this down to $50 billion, before letting it go altogether — supposedly happy with Apple’s own repurchase plans. (His hand may have been forced somewhat by the ISS recommending that shareholders vote “no” on Icahn’s proposal.)

  • popeyoni

    Separating PayPal from eBay could be good for consumers.
    It might allow other (better) payment methods to be used on eBay.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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