SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Former eBay Inc. chief executive Meg Whitman plans to run for governor of California, a person with knowledge of her political aspirations said Monday.
The 52-year-old Republican plans to run in 2010 for the seat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is leaving but is not ready to make a formal announcement, said the person, who was not authorized to talk publicly and spoke Monday on condition of anonymity.
Whitman made the decision while spending time with family over the holidays, and will make the announcement official in four to six weeks, he said.
Henry Gomez, a spokesman for Whitman, said she stepped down from the boards of eBay, Procter & Gamble Co. and DreamWorks SKG last week.
He says it was for "personal reasons and time commitments" but would not elaborate.
The person who said Whitman is planning a gubernatorial run said her resignations are "a strong indication" that she wants to get clear of any commitments that might interfere with a run for political office.
In a statement, John Donahoe, eBay's president and chief executive, praised Whitman's tenure at the head of the online auctioneer.
‘Vision and leadership’
"Meg's vision and leadership and her passion for the eBay community have helped create economic opportunity for millions of people worldwide and enabled us to build a dynamic portfolio of leading online businesses," he said. "Her experience and insights will be missed, but Meg will always be a part of the eBay family, and we wish her the very best."
Whitman retired last March after 10 years at the helm. A billionaire, she retains a 2 percent ownership stake in eBay.
She most recently served as a national co-chair of John McCain's failed presidential bid and previously had supported former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who lost to McCain in the GOP primary. Whitman and Romney once worked at Bain and Co., a global business consulting firm. Romney later started Bain Capital, the venture capital firm where he made millions.
Whitman is one of three Republicans who are considered front-runners in the 2010 California gubernatorial campaign. The others are state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and former Rep. Tom Campbell.
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The GOP side of the race is wide open. A November Field Poll found that between two-thirds and three-quarters of registered California voters had no opinion of the potential Republican candidates.
But the poll found that Whitman had the highest favorable rating among the three, at 23 percent.
If Whitman were to win the GOP primary, she would face a well-known Democratic opponent in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 13 percentage points.
Former Gov. Jerry Brown, now the state's attorney general, is thought to be the leading Democratic candidate if he decides to run. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also are considered potential Democratic contenders.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is prohibited from running again under the state's term-limits law and will leave office in January 2011.
A Democratic strategist said Whitman will wade into a difficult environment for Republicans if she decides to run for governor.
‘A pretty big beating’
Bob Mulholland, spokesman for the California Democratic Party, said the state has not fared well under Schwarzenegger and noted that Whitman backed McCain, who lost to President-elect Barack Obama in California by 24 percentage points. It was widest margin in a presidential contest in California since World War II.
"Meg took a pretty big beating," Mulholland said. "If she thinks she can pay to be loved by California voters, she'd be making a big mistake."
California GOP spokesman Hector Barajas said Republicans would get excited about a primary race pitting Whitman against Poizner, 52, a fellow moderate and Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Poizner, an electrical engineer, helped develop a GPS chip for cell phones and made a fortune when the company, SnapTrack, was sold for $1 billion in 2000.
"It would be a healthy campaign," Barajas said. "You're going to have two very strong individuals on the Republican side, two business-minded individuals who understand what it takes to provide one of the most important things we need in California — and that's jobs."
Poizner did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
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