Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Another Legal Tussle for eBay–And It's Not Skype This Time!–As Former CEO and California Guv Hopeful Whitman Kicks Off Craigslist Trial Monday

Auction giant eBay is headed to court again Monday, and for once, it has nothing to do with the litigious Skype co-founders.

Instead, it’s a battle in Delaware with craigslist, the San Francisco online classified powerhouse that eBay holds a minority ownership position in.

That stake is actually precisely what’s at stake. Currently, the San Jose, Calif.-based eBay (EBAY) has a less than 25 percent one, although it had acquired about 28 percent in a deal in 2004.

The company waged a lawsuit last year against the privately held craigslist for diluting its ownership position by issuing more stock and thereby causing eBay to lose its board seat.

That happened, alleges eBay, through a “coercive plan” by craigslist founder Craig Newmark and CEO Jim Buckmaster.

“We have acted in good faith as a minority shareholder,” said eBay spokesman Alan Marks. “We are simply asking the court to restore our original interest in the company.”

I sent a late email to craiglist’s rep and will post the reply if I get one.

Whitman–who is running for the Republican nomination for California governor–takes the stand on opening day Monday to talk about the original deal with craiglist.

She will be followed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

Of course, craiglist has its own suit in San Francisco, alleging that eBay stole confidential information to create a competing classified service called Kijiji–a dopey name that BoomTown hereby rules someone should be arrested for thinking up–and other misdeeds.

But, so as to be consistent in its awkward legal messes, there is a Skype link: Current Skype President Josh Silverman had been the craigslist board member for eBay and played a key role in developing Kijiji.

Under Whitman’s leadership, ebay also bought Skype, in 2005, and sold a big stake recently.

It was a very controversial sale, which in turn, led to a series of ugly lawsuits from the Skype co-founders, which were just settled last month.

It will be interesting to see what Whitman, who has recently declared that the disastrous Skype acquisition was a good one, says about the craigslist debacle.

Perhaps she’ll say that eBay should have limited its investing during her watch to antiques and other fine collectibles?

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik