eBay is reportedly in active negotiations with activist investors Starboard Value and Elliott Management, which could lead to the company’s split with StubHub and its Classifieds unit.
According to The Wall Street Journal, eBay is close to settling a dispute to give the activists a seat on its board, which would give them the ability shift the future of eBay. Sources told the Journal that three interested parties are discussing a deal that would give Elliot and Starboard multiple board seats and eBay would agree to do an operational review of its earnings to see if it should spin-off certain units.
A deal is not official; the Journal noted that all parties are discussing issues that could cause communications to fall apart. If there is no agreement, Elliot and Starboard have a deadline of March 1 to enter a proxy fight to get a seat on eBay’s board. The deadline can also be extended if more time is needed to negotiate.
Last month, Elliot and Starboard called on eBay to cut ties with the San Francisco-based ticketing company StubHub and its Classifieds division, as it would improve the company’s margins and offer both firms a decent payout. Currently, Elliot owns more than a 4 percent stake in eBay, while Starboard owns less than 4 percent.
In the letter, Elliot claimed that its $1.4 billion stake in the company makes it one of eBay’s largest shareholders and with a plan, they could help boost eBay’s value from a $55 to $63 share in the coming years.
Jesse Cohn, a partner at Elliot, wrote that the company believes eBay is worth far more but “change is urgently needed to address both public perceptions and real business issues,” noting that these issues caused eBay’s Marketplace to be “deeply undervalued.”
Elliot said that despite eBay’s history as one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms, it has under-performed for a long period of time and a change is needed. For far too long, the company has been trying to compete with Amazon, while still shedding its past image as an online auction-based site. The letter suggested that eBay needs to improve the Marketplace’s technology and operations.
eBay previously spun off the payment platform PayPal Holdings Inc. after New York-based billionaire Carl Icahn urged the split. Now, each eBay holder has a share in PayPal, which is currently worth more than $100 billion. However, after his stake doubled in value, Icahn sold his eBay position.