eBay's separation from PayPal after 13 years together is a story of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and a cautionary tale for Internet companies who forget their ultimate master: Wall Street. While an independent PayPal will continue its double digit growth trajectory and be valued at greater than $40 billion, eBay will be left to find some new way to compete with rival Amazon
eBay CEO John Donahoe was visibly agitated one March afternoon in 2014, as he slowly paced the length of a small conference room at eBay's San Jose headquarters. The 6-foot-5 chief executive was in his usual work uniform — relaxed dress shirt and dark trousers — and that classic, controlled Donahoe 'do: thick hair parted to the right side, evoking a young Ted Kennedy. Only, on that day, the side part wasn't so tidy, the dress shirt not so crisp. “PayPal has enormous potential, and we are completely capable of driving that potential,” Donahoe told me that March afternoon, waving his arms around, his usually warm manner diluted by defensiveness. He was explaining a diagram showing how eBay and PayPal belonged together because some of eBay's earnings were used to fund PayPal's growth abroad.