Investors: Thumbs Down on eBay Management Shuffle

Rob Hof

eBay investors apparently don't like the just-announced departure of Jeff Jordan, president of eBay's PayPal unit. The stock's down almost 5% this morning.

Given the relative success of PayPal--as well as its new competition from Google Checkout, which may require some fancy footwork on PayPal's part--that reaction is no surprise. And my brief talk this morning with Jordan, eBay CEO Meg Whitman, and new PayPal President Rajiv Dutta didn't offer much new to comfort investors. Although Whitman says she and Jordan have talked about his desire to spend more time with his family ("and wear out a mountain bike," as avid biker Jordan put it), the decision was clearly pretty recent. Otherwise, I wonder if Rajiv Dutta, who moved to London early this year to be president of eBay's Skype unit, would have done so, only to find himself moving back to head PayPal now.

A couple of analysts note that with Google Checkout now out, the risk profile on PayPal and eBay has risen, and they've cut their target prices for eBay stock.

Dutta took pains to minimize the significance of Google Checkout, which Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney in a new report says is a bigger competitor for PayPal, a full payment service, than it might first appear. "PayPal is much more than a checkout service," he says. "Launching a payment service is more than just launching a UI, frankly."

Nonetheless, it's clear that eBay isn't taking Checkout lightly. As ChannelAdvisor's Scot Wingo pointed out early this morning, eBay has now placed Google Checkout on a list of payment services that are not acceptable to advertise on eBay listings (though what merchants use on the back end, in their own checkout process, remains their own business). eBay says that's at least partly because, even though Google Checkout uses standard credit cards for payment, it doesn't have a track record yet. Wingo thinks that argument won't fly with merchants who like Google Checkout ease and speed, and I suspect he's right.

I also asked Whitman, who flirted with leaving to head Disney awhile ago, if she would be the next departure. "No," she told me. "I have no plans to leave eBay."

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