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eBay Must Wring Out CEOs' Excess: Activist

Stocks in this article: EBAY

I can understand why eBay burnished Whitman's personal network to serve on those boards and rub shoulders with Steven Spielberg and other luminaries, but how did serving on those boards help eBay shareholders? They say that While Rome burned, Nero fiddled. At eBay in 2006, while the stock dropped and the Skype merger was a mess, Whitman flew to Hawaii and other locales on a private jet paid for from the shareholders' bank account.

So, a question to the eBay compensation committee: Who do you think you are? With the exception of H-P, no other tech company foists off this extravagant perk on its shareholders. Microsoft (MSFT), Cisco (CSCO), Intel (INTC) and Apple (AAPL) don't do it. Even Yahoo! -- the king of excessive compensation -- doesn't do this. What makes eBay so special?

Most troubling about this "CEO entitlement mentality" that Whitman adopted in her final years on the job is that she's passed the habit on to her successor. Donahoe racked up almost $280,000 worth of personal aircraft expenses in his first nine months on the job in 2008. I can't wait to see what he can do this year with a full 12 months.

I doubt he's ever had to answer to why he's indulging himself in this ridiculous expense. If asked, I suspect he'd look blankly ahead and say something like, "Well, Meg said it was OK."

It's time for eBay to grow up and stamp out these excesses. Just because you've always done something dumb doesn't mean you should keep doing it. Make your well-compensated execs pay their own way on personal trips using the corporate jet, and start linking pay for performance. Donahoe made $13.1 million last year for his nine months as CEO, while eBay's stock dropped 55%, far wider than Nasdaq's 30% loss in that same period.

eBay's board, particularly its compensation committee, needs to turn the page on the Meg Whitman era and get its executives focused on the tough task at hand in turning around the company instead of worrying about their next tee time.

-- Written by Eric Jackson in Naples, Fla.

At the time of publication, Jackson had no positions in the stocks mentioned.

Eric Jackson is founder and president of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd.

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