( dpa ) - Meg Whitman, the seasoned executive who built eBay from an internet pioneer to one of the most powerful web sales sites, is to retire from the company, she announced Wednesday.
Her successor will be John Donahoe, head of EBay's main online auction business.
"During the last three years, John and I have worked very closely together to arrive at this day, and we'll continue to work together through the transition," said Whitman, who will depart March 31. "I'm extremely confident in John's skills."
The announcement came as eBay announced a 42-per-cent increase in fourth-quarter earnings to 611 million dollars, or 45 cents a share. Revenue was 2.18 billion dollars, up 27 per cent from the same period last year and ahead of Wall Street forecasts of 2.14 billion dollars.
The company said it experienced strong growth in its core marketplaces division and across its other properties such as PayPal, the Internet calling service Skype, the ticketing site StubHub and an expanding portfolio of classified advertising Web sites. "We're very pleased with the results for the quarter, which were strengthened by a solid holiday shopping season," Whitman said. "We had a remarkably strong year from a financial perspective. We enter 2008 with our most diverse portfolio of e-commerce offerings ever, positioning us to drive long-term growth in the global e-commerce market."
Whitman, 51, joined EBay in 1998, guiding the company through its initial public offering. At the time, eBay had revenue of 47 million dollars and net income of 2 million dollars. On Wednesday, it reported 7.7 billion dollars in revenue for 2007 and had 15,000 employees around the globe.
But its growth has been slowing from triple-digit increases in net income just five years ago to a mere 4-per-cent bump in 2006.
Whitman stumbled badly in her purchase of Skype for 2.4 billion dollars in 2006, which resulted in a 1.4-billion-dollar writedown last year. Lately she has been leading efforts to rebuild the company's home page and introduce social networking for shoppers, as EBay seeks to fend off increased competition from Amazon.com.
Whitman told analysts in 2004 that she had "one of the best jobs in America." But the next year, she interviewed for the top job at Walt Disney Co, where she was previously senior vice president of marketing for consumer products.
She started her career in 1979 at Procter & Gamble Co before moving on to stints at Stride Rite Corp and Hasbro Inc, where she was responsible for marketing toy brands Playskool and Mr Potato Head, according to Whitman's biography on EBay's Web site.
Whitman also worked at Bain & Co, a consulting firm from which she hired Donahoe three years ago to expand EBay's auction sites globally.