Meg Whitman at Ebay

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Meg Whitman at eBay—Group Case Analysis

Upon being hired as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of eBay, Meg Whitman came into a new, developing company on the brink of explosive growth. eBay was founded in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar as an online, equal access, person-to-person trading community based on principles of mutual honesty and respect. Simply stated, eBay was a company that created the necessary software and forum for the general public to buy and sell goods—any goods. eBay did not own, ship, or physically handle any product bought or sold in its marketplace. Thus, eBay relies on its community of users to determine the products, pricing, shipping, and perhaps most importantly, quality controls of the business. As such, Omidyar’s concept found increased success as users regulated each other through community-based forums. A new community culture was created. Recognizing further potential for growth, Omidyar, along with other stakeholders, hired Meg Whitman as CEO in March of 1998 with the intent of building upon the eBay brand while preserving the community culture that had brought the company so much success. In the span of just over one year, Whitman led the company through several acquisitions and strategic moves, including eBay’s successful Initial Public Offering (IPO). These moves grew customer base and pleased Wall Street, but ran risks of alienating the community that had brought them success.

Growth with Meg Whitman at the helm was realized quickly and presented a new issue for the organization as it expanded: How can eBay preserve its existing community culture and values, while simultaneously growing the company? Since its creation, the user community was given complete control and freedom of content. It was self-policed. Under Whitman’s leadership, Wall Street pressures and shareholder value became a factor in corporate decision-making. For example, the removal of firearms from eBay was perceived positively by Wall Street, but...
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