SAN FRANCISCO — Meg Whitman will soon step down as chief executive of eBay Inc., the online auction company that went from wobbly startup to multibillion-dollar household name in her 10-year tenure.
Whitman, 51, will be succeeded by John Donahoe, 47, who has been heading eBay's core auction and e-commerce businesses. The transition will happen March 31, the company said Wednesday.
Whitman said she will remain on eBay's board of directors.
"With humor, smarts and unflappable determination, Meg took a small, barely known online auction site and helped it become an integral part of our lives. We're all enormously grateful that Meg dedicated herself to stewarding eBay through its 10 most formative years," said Pierre Omidyar, eBay's founder and chairman.
Donahoe came to eBay in 2005 from Bain & Co., where he had previously worked with Whitman.
Few executives who helped pioneer the commercialization of the Internet have remained on top for as long as the 51-year-old Whitman. When she joined eBay in 1998, the company employed 30 people and had revenues of $86 million that year.
The company now employs 15,000 people and had $5.97 billion in revenues last year.
Whitman's retirement would come at a critical point for eBay. Although its divisions include PayPal electronic payment and ticket broker StubHub.com, the company's auction business — which accounts for more than two-thirds of eBay's annual revenue — has experienced slowing growth rates for the past few years.
Despite eBay's success, there have been missteps along the way.
In October, eBay announced it would take a $900 million write-down in the value of telecommunications division Skype. That charge, for what accountants call impairment, essentially acknowledged that eBay executives drastically overvalued the $2.6 billion Skype acquisition, completed in October 2005.
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