Welcome to another episode of Carl Icahn vs. eBay: Today, the famed corporate raider writes his umpteenth letter to eBay shareholders, and board director Marc Andreessen addresses Icahn’s conflict-of-interest accusations.
Icahn, whose other Silicon Valley targets have included Yahoo, Netflix and Apple, has pressured eBay to spin off PayPal, its successful payments division. The San Jose company has said it has thought about the possibility, but that it believes it’s not the right move.
Icahn says venture capitalist Andreessen personally profited from eBay’s dealings with Skype, the Internet messaging platform. EBay bought Skype in 2005, then sold it to Microsoft four years later for less than it had paid for the company. Andreessen Horowitz held a stake in Skype. Icahn calls the episode “epic blunder,” and says in today’s letter that “Mr. Andreessen’s conflicts are clear and insurmountable.”
In a blog post today, Andreessen speaks out against Icahn’s charges: “Throughout the eBay board’s process of divesting Skype, I fully disclosed my potential interest and recused myself from all deliberations on the transaction, including all discussions, negotiations, and decisions.” He says “all of the facts around my role in the Skype transaction were fully public at that time.”
Last week, eBay Chairman Pierre Omidyar said Icahn had nothing to back up his claims. Icahn also accuses Scott Cook, who sits on the boards of both eBay and Intuit, of a conflict of interest. And Icahn is no fan of eBay CEO John Donahoe, whom he calls “either naive or willfully blind to these grave lapses of accountability and stockholder value destruction.”
Photo of eBay/PayPal sign in San Jose from Associated Press archives