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eBay wanted to buy Craigslist, Whitman tells judge

Court showdown over board seat

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eBay wanted to buy Craigslist whole hog when it scooped up a minority stake in the classifieds website in 2004, former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman told a judge on Monday.

Whitman said the online tat house was looking to expand into new markets when it purchased a 28 per cent stake in the company from an early Craigslist executive. The deal made eBay the sole outside shareholder in Craigslist.

Whitman affirmed her former company's considerations of a takeover while on the witness stand in Delaware state court today according to Bloomberg, while making the case that Craigslist unfairly stripped eBay of a seat on its board.

"We were very interested in making an acquisition of Craigslist," Whitman is reported telling the judge. "We would have loved to buy the whole thing."

Whitman's testimony marked the beginning of a trial where the auction website alleges Craigslist's execs had conducted a series of secret deals to dilute eBay's shareholding from 28 per cent to 25 per cent, which was below the threshold to control a seat on the company board.

eBay's allegations caused Craigslist to file a counter lawsuit alleging that eBay used its board seat to take confidential information in order to launch its own classifieds website, Kijiji.

When eBay launched its Kijiji service in the US, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and CEO Jim Buckmaster told the online auctioneer that it had effectively become a competitor and that they were no longer comfortable having eBay as a shareholder. It said the dilution was part of the company's anti-takeover defenses.

Whitman — who stepped down as eBay's CEO last year to run for governor of California under a Republican ticket — told the court that her former company made it clear from the start of talks that it was interested in owning the entire company.

eBay is suing to get its shareholder rights back. A victory in court could allow eBay to have a larger say in how Craigslist conducts its business. ®

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