PALS NO MORE

The eBay you grew up with is dead. Cause of death: Carl Icahn

Obsession
How We Buy
Obsession
How We Buy

Activist investor Carl Icahn’s successful push to spin off PayPal is in full motion—and that means the imminent demise of eBay as we know it.

Ebay has outlined its plans for what the company will look like post-separation. Clearly, PayPal is winning this breakup.

While the split props up PayPal with $5 billion in cash and no debt, it leaves eBay saddled with $7.6 billion in debt (against $2 billion in net cash) and an online auction business that revolutionized e-commerce early on, but is now showing its age.

Ebay is laying off 7% of its workforce, with much of those cuts coming from its legacy marketplace business.

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With traffic and sales slowing, eBay has tried to refashion its namesake auction site from an antiquated yard sale into an on-trend retailer. But it’s facing greater competition from the soon-to-IPO crafts marketplace Etsy and even old-school retailers like Walmart, Staples, and Home Depot. (Also not helping: the US dollar’s strength, which makes American goods more expensive to international buyers; security breaches; and problems with how eBay shows up in some search engines.)

It’s unlikely any of the changes executives outlined so far to prop up eBay will be enough to save it. Even eBay’s CFO laid it on straight: “Things will get worse in the first half of 2015 before they get better,” he told analysts, after eBay released fourth-quarter financial results.

To help focus the company, eBay plans to scale back its work on costly, Amazon-like features such as same-day delivery, and will split off Bay Enterprise, the business services division that grew up around an acquisition the company made less than four years ago for $2.4 billion.

Instead it plans to focus on eBay Deals, a daily deal site akin to a Groupon or LivingSocial—and that’s an increasingly crowded and cutthroat area facing its own challenges as consumers tire of one-time deals.

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