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After founding eBay in September 1995 and overseeing all aspects of the business for the first three years, Pierre Omidyar decided he had a tiger by the tail and needed some professional management. He hired Meg Whitman, a Harvard MBA with stints at Bain,
Procter & Gamble(PG) and
Stride Rite, as CEO in March 1998. The company went public six months later and has been a runaway success.
eBay is an incredible entrepreneurial story. Omidyar and his first employee, Jeff Skoll, deserve countless wealth for creating a multibillion dollar company from nothing. Along the way, Skoll -- who no longer holds any eBay stock -- cashed out equity worth $5.3 billion. Omidyar, still chairman, has cashed out about $3.5 billion to date, but his remaining equity stake is worth another $3.8 billion at current market prices. He now lives in Hawaii and is a philanthropist. And with as much wealth as they've created for themselves, Omidyar and Skoll have created more for others and should be celebrated for this success.
Whitman, who stepped down as CEO last year and now has ambitions to become governor in California in 2010, had a net positive record overseeing eBay. She rode a rocket ship of growth -- getting through the early days of frequent Web site crashes -- and ultimately got it to be a $60 billion company in late 2004; it's about half that valuation today.