EBay to Consider Selling StubHub Amid Peace Deal With Activist Hedge Funds

EBay said on Friday that it would consider selling the ticket-sales service StubHub, its classified advertising unit and other assets in a potential revamping of the online retailer meant to appease restive shareholders.

The company also said it would add three new directors to its board, and that it had reached settlement agreements with the activist hedge funds Elliott Management and Starboard Value, which have been pressing management for an overhaul.

As part of the strategic review of its portfolio, eBay suggested it would closely examine its core marketplace business and consider unwinding some expansions into adjacent businesses.

The move comes amid shareholders’ dismay over the stagnant performance of eBay’s stock over the past several years. The company’s shares had fallen about 17 percent in the 12 months before Elliott and Starboard unveiled their ownership stakes in January.

EBay agreed to spin off its PayPal payments business three years ago under pressure from the activist investor Carl Icahn, who had criticized the company as among the worst-run he had ever seen.

The company insists that it has already embarked on investor-friendly initiatives, including introducing a quarterly dividend and committing to returning $7 billion to shareholders over the next two years. It said on Friday that it has also streamlined its international operations and taken steps to increase advertising revenue.

The settlements announced Friday head off what could have been an arduous board fight led with Elliott and Starboard, two of the biggest and most successful activist hedge funds. Elliott owns a roughly 4 percent stake in eBay; Starboard owns about 1 percent of the company.

In a letter to eBay’s board in January, Elliott urged the company to consider selling StubHub and the classifieds business, saying such transactions could bring in more than $16 billion.

EBay made no commitment on Friday to selling any of its businesses, and it is unclear whether the company would act on another Elliott proposal: selling its core marketplace business to a private equity firm or other online retailer.

“We see tremendous opportunity ahead and want to see eBay’s full potential realized over the long-term,” Devin Wenig, eBay’s chief executive, said in a statement.

As part of the settlement, eBay agreed to add as new directors Jesse Cohn, the Elliott partner who led the hedge fund’s campaign, and Matt Murphy, the chief executive of Marvell Technology. The third new director will be added later this year.

“We are confident that the initiatives announced today will drive meaningful shareholder value,” Mr. Cohn said in a statement.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.