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Long-serving eBay sultana Meg Whitman is set to hang up her hammer within weeks, it's reported, as the web's number one tat bazaar struggles to restore trust and respond to new challengers in the online jumble racket.

The 51-year-old has been gradually handing over her day-to-day responsiblities to her deputies, according to the anonymous eBay sources cited by the Wall Street Journal. John Donahue, current boss of the core auction business, is frontrunner to replace her.

A final decision could be imminent, the paper reckons, although the "situation remains fluid", which we assume is strategy speak for "she might change her mind".

Whitman joined eBay in 1998 when it had fewer than 50 staff and was only available to US sellers. It now has about 11,000 employees on its books worldwide, but in 2006 Whitman conceded the firm was losing its magic.

According to Forbes, Whitman has bagged about $1.4bn from people reselling their old gear. It's been noted here and in other parts that if she had quit in 2005 she would have left a fairly unblemished corporate record too.

Instead, she bought Skype. That hasn't turned out too well. eBay also seems increasingly unable to cope with its role as the scammers' favourite source of marks. Hacking has been a problem too, with the firm repeatedly humilitated by Count Hackula, AKA "Vladuz", last year.

All the while, Craigslist, Facebook and others have been plotting to undercut eBay's fees and offer sellers new routes to market.

Whitman's departure will leave Amazon's Jeff Bezos and prodigal Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang as the last men standing from the dotcom class of 1999. ®

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