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Former eBay boss prepares to run for office

Former eBay boss prepares to run for office

It's been a long time coming, but former eBay chief Meg Whitman now appears to be preparing to run for the post of governor of California.

Whitman seems to be planning a future as Arnold Schwarzenegger's successor, and she's spent the past year getting her credentials in order. Her ties to the Republicans are tight: she was a co-chair of John McCain's failed election campaign and before that an adviser to Mitt Romney's failed campaign to win the Republican nomination.

With such a startling record of political success, I quite hope she gets the nod - but I also hope that people start to question her period in charge of eBay.

After all, yes, she guided the company from a small outfit to worldwide success. She made it through the dotcom bust and came out the other side. But then things started to go awry: when eBay turned into a massive struggling bureaucracy that needed a bit of direction and oomph, she decided to buy Skype (which the company had to write down by $1.4bn) and then, this time last year, got the hell out of Dodge.

And just a few months after she bailed, the company laid off 10% of its workforce. California's got plenty of problems already.

Still, record aside, Whitman wouldn't be the first technology executive to try her hand at politics. Although in recent years Bill Gates has wielded the greatest political influence of any technology supremo (he once told me that he regularly phoned Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to check on the progress of the NHS's troubled IT upgrade) in the end he preferred to exercise his muscle for the company, not the country.

In recent American history, that means the most famous example of a technologist-turned-politician is Ross Perot, the founder of Electronic Data Systems who ran as an independent presidential candidate in 1992 and 1996. At his most successful, Perot received as much as 19% of the popular vote. Crikey.

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