Analysts are trying to discern whether the elevation of eBay CFO Scott Schenkel to interim CEO will lead to wholesale change or a more incremental approach as the online marketplace tries to regain competitiveness with giants like Amazon. Top executive Devin Wenig resigned Wednesday.
"If investors are looking at controlling costs and boosting efficiency, then the CFO and interim CEO have a shot [at the permanent CEO role]," Mickey Matthews, international chairman of recruitment company Stanton Chase, told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
If investors instead want to focus on retooling the platform, bringing in an experienced CEO from outside would make more sense, Wedbush Securities analyst Ygal Arounian told The Journal. "They might want a strategic operator rather [than] a financial head."
The company has long been attempting to turn itself around. Wenig had been at eBay since 2011 and served as chief executive since 2015. He was praised for improving the company's finances, but some investors are seeking more fundamental change.
"EBay is stronger today than it was four years ago," eBay Chairman Thomas Tierney said in a company statement Wednesday. "Notwithstanding this progress, given a number of considerations, both Devin and the Board believe that a new CEO is best for the Company at this time."
Investors from Elliott Management sent a letter to the board in January urging a more radical transformation. Among other things, they want the company to sell StubHub, a wholly owned affiliate, and its classified advertising business.
These assets "are worth meaningfully more than the value currently being ascribed to them as part of eBay," Jesse Cohn of Elliott Management said in the letter. "In addition to unlocking substantial value, separating these assets would allow eBay's management team to refocus its efforts solely on the core Marketplace business," he said.
These two moves remain on the table, the company said in its statement Wednesday. "EBay's strategic review of its asset portfolio, including StubHub and eBay Classifieds Group, is continuing to move forward," the company said.
Deep grasp of finances
Schenkel has been recognized for his command of the company's finances. He joined the company in 2007 as vice president of global financial planning and analysis — the consummate internal finance role — and was promoted to CFO in 2015. "During his 12 years at eBay, Scott has demonstrated that he is a strong and dynamic leader who knows our business inside and out," Tierney said in the company statement.
But it's unclear whether the board will view his background as the kind they want in the CEO going forward.
Peter Crist, chairman of executive recruitment firm Crist|Kolder Associates, told the Journal that Schenkel was put "on stage" with Wednesday's announcement and is now effectively auditioning for the permanent job. "A company's search for a permanent CEO gives the interim candidate a long time to audition," he said.
If the board chooses to go with an experienced external candidate, Schenkel could return to his CFO post. That job is being handled on an interim basis by Andy Cring, eBay's vice president of global financial planning and analysis — the same role Schenkel previously held.