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Ebay chief Devin Wenig steps down amid strategic review

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Ebay’s president and chief executive Devin Wenig has stepped down after disagreements with the online retailer’s new board, as the company pushes ahead with a strategic review of its business.

The departure comes six months after the ecommerce company bowed to investor pressure and appointed representatives from two activist shareholders, Elliott Management and Starboard Value, to its board.

Since then, growth in its core marketplace business has flagged, adding to tensions that resulted in Tuesday’s departure, according to a person familiar with the company.

Mr Wenig admitted to the disagreements in a farewell post on Twitter. “In the past few weeks it became clear that I was not on the same page as my new Board. Whenever that happens, it’s best for everyone to turn that page over.”

A former Reuters executive, he took the helm at eBay four years ago as it tried to a sort through a series of earlier acquisitions and revive its original ecommerce operations.

The company had spun off both Skype and PayPal, but under Mr Wenig hung on to its classified advertising and the StubHub ticket sales operations, drawing fire from Wall Street critics.

The activist investors did not immediately push to oust Mr Wenig after joining eBay’s board this year. But his departure now is not a “complete surprise, given the relative underperformance of core marketplace over the years and the ongoing activist involvement”, said Youssef Squali, an internet analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

The total value of goods sold through eBay’s marketplace fell 5 per cent in the first half of this year, adding to investor frustrations. Under Mr Wenig, the company has looked for growth through adding payments and advertising options for its sellers, but attempts to improve the experience for buyers and sellers have failed to prevent a further erosion of its share of online commerce.

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The ecommerce pioneer, which had its beginnings as an auction site, said its strategic review of its asset portfolio, including StubHub and eBay Classifieds Group, is continuing to move forward with Goldman Sachs advising. 

Ebay said it would carry out an internal and external search for a new chief. Scott Schenkel, who most recently served as the company’s finance chief, will serve as eBay’s interim chief. Meanwhile, Andy Cring, currently vice-president of global financial planning and analysis, will serve as interim chief financial officer. 

The California-based company also reaffirmed its full-year guidance for organic revenue growth of between 2 and 3 per cent, and adjusted earnings of $2.70 to $2.75 per share. eBay shares, which are up nearly 39 per cent year-to-date, fell 1.5 per cent to $38.96 in morning trade. 

In a statement, Thomas Tierney, chairman, said Mr Wenig had been “a tireless advocate for driving improvement in the business, particularly in leading the company forward after the PayPal spin-off”. He added: “Notwithstanding this progress, given a number of considerations, both Devin and the board believe that a new CEO is best for the company at this time.”

Via Financial Times

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