Web-browser pioneer Marc Andreessen resigned from the board of EBay Inc. ahead of the online marketplace’s breakup, following a verbal battle with activist investor Carl Icahn over the company’s PayPal unit.
Andreessen, 43, co-founder of Netscape and a director at Hewlett-Packard Co., said in a statement today the decision to separate marks the right time for him to step down. He has “complete confidence” in the ability of EBay Chief Executive Officer John Donahoe and the board to lead the company’s split, according to the statement.
In a contentious campaign earlier this year over the company’s handling of PayPal, Icahn singled out Andreessen and fellow director Scott Cook, accusing them of conflicts of interest, which Andreessen and EBay disputed. In April, EBay announced an agreement with Icahn, 78, that avoided a proxy contest, and EBay went on to unveil the PayPal spinoff last month, though Icahn and Andreessen continued to criticize each other.
In an interview with Bloomberg Television earlier this month, Icahn said Andreessen is “what’s wrong with corporate America.”
EBay and PayPal are considered takeover candidates after their split, for buyers such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Google Inc., according to analysts. PayPal will become a stand-alone company by the end of next year. Hewlett-Packard, run by former EBay CEO Meg Whitman, is also splitting up.
Andreessen joined the board of San Jose, California-based EBay in September 2008. The company, founded in 1995, enabled $205 billion of commerce volume last year. CEO Donahoe plans to lead EBay through its breakup next year and then step down from his executive role, though he will take a seat on one or both of the new companies’ boards.
EBay disclosed Icahn’s effort in January, saying the investor took a stake, nominated two board candidates and proposed a spinoff of PayPal, the company’s digital-payments unit.
In letters to EBay investors in the months that followed, Icahn criticized the online marketplace’s corporate governance. He said Andreessen had made investments in and advised direct competitors of EBay, and had conflicts of interest related to videoconferencing service Skype, which EBay acquired in 2005 and then sold to an investment group in 2009. Andreessen and EBay denied any wrongdoing, saying Andreessen recused himself from negotiations and the process was transparent.
Andreessen couldn’t immediately be reached for further comment through a spokeswoman. Abby Smith, a spokeswoman for EBay, declined to say what the company will do regarding the vacancy on its board.
Andreessen was a co-developer of Mosaic, the first widely used Internet browser, and founded Netscape, a software producer that was purchased in 1999 by the former America Online Inc. Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm Andreessen co-founded, has invested in such startups as Facebook Inc., Twitter, Airbnb Inc. and Box Inc.
Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, is an investor in Andreessen Horowitz.
EBay shares gained 2.6 percent to $49.20 at the close in New York. They’ve fallen 6.6 percent since the company announced its plans to split.