March 1, 2019 / 1:16 PM / 2 months ago

EBay announces review of StubHub, Classifieds in deal with activists

(Reuters) - EBay Inc on Friday announced a review of its StubHub and eBay Classifieds businesses and said it would appoint two new directors to its board, as part of an agreement with activist investors to avert a proxy contest.

FILE PHOTO - The eBay app is seen on a mobile phone in this illustration photo October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD

The U.S. e-commerce firm will add Jesse Cohn, who runs U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management’s U.S. equity activism practice, and Matt Murphy, the CEO of Marvell Technology and a nominee of U.S. hedge fund Starboard Value, to its board.

The hedge funds had been pushing eBay to improve profitability through a wide-ranging review. While eBay’s review does involve exploring options for parts of its portfolio, it does not involve considering selling the whole of eBay or its core Marketplace business, according to people familiar with the talks.

EBay will also add a third new independent director later in the year, it said. The company made its announcement hours before the deadline for investors to nominate directors.

The company signed cooperation agreements with Elliott and Starboard Value LP, under which the two investors have agreed to certain standstill agreement, including voting along with management, and other provisions with eBay.

“Over the course of the last two months, we’ve met with a number of shareholders to understand their views,” eBay Chief Executive Officer Devin Wenig said in a statement, adding that the discussions have been constructive.

Elliott, one of Wall Street’s busiest and successful activists, made a new bet on eBay in the fourth quarter and has been pushing for changes at the company, including a sale of its StubHub ticket sales and its classified-ads businesses.

Starboard, another prominent activist which has won more board seats through settlements than other hedge funds, according to data from Lazard, has also been building a stake.

The company’s shares have jumped 32 percent since the start of January but are still off 13 percent over the last 52 weeks. Shares in eBay rose 5 percent to $39 in early trading after the news.

StubHub on its own could be worth between $3.5 billion and $4.5 billion, and eBay Classifieds, which has an international footprint, could be sold or spun off and worth between $8 billion and $12 billion, Elliott said last month.

Before eBay, Wenig had spent 18 years at Thomson Reuters, where he led the company’s markets unit.

Reporting by Arjun Panchadar and Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru; Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Liana B. Baker in New York; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Nick Zieminski

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