Craigslist Brought Out the “Monster” in Meg Whitman

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster warned by eBay executive about "Evil Meg"

On the stand for most of today, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster discussed the slide into mutual contempt between Craigslist and minority shareholder eBay.

The two companies, both giants in their own ways in e-commerce, are suing each other in a Delaware court over eBay's purchase of a minority stake in Craigslist, and a subsequent move by Craigslist to cut eBay's shareholdings and board seat.

Citing an email from eBay executive Garrett Price, who led the negotiations for eBay's purchase of a minority share in Craigslist and testified last week, Buckmaster said he was told that the then eBay CEO Meg Whitman he initially met and agreed to sale terms with was "the Good Meg."

By 2007, when Whitman was apparently frustrated with Craigslist's culture and its unwillingness to sell out to eBay, Price warned that Buckmaster and Craigslist were going to draw out the "monster," "Evil Meg."

All of which led Buckmaster to worry if Whitman, and eBay, were "trustworthy."

Whitman, who stepped down as CEO in 2008 and quit eBay's board earlier this year, is running for governor of California. The courtroom revelations about her personality could become an issue in her campaign.

After the launch of Kijiji, an international online classifieds site, a concerned but diplomatic Buckmaster wrote an email to Whitman, saying that the two companies differed in their interpretation of fair competition, and that the Kijiji move "does not feel right coming from a large shareholder privy to our financials and other confidential information."

Whitman responded by thanking Buckmaster for the kind words for herself and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, but then reasserted her interest in owning Craigslist outright:

[W]e would welcome the opportunity to acquire the remainder of Craigslist Inc. we do not already own whenever you and Craig feel it would be appropriate.

Already wary of Whitman, Buckmaster felt that offer amounted to a declaration that eBay would find a way to own Craigslist, "if necessary over our dead bodies."

Jackson West figures that these revelations about Whitman will actually play pretty well to the Republican Party base she's courting in the gubernatorial primary.

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