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Icahn escalates war of words with eBay

The Associated Press

Carl Icahn will not be silenced.

The billionaire investor and eBay are engaged in an escalating war of words as Icahn tries to get the company to split off its PayPal unit. Icahn wants the fast-growing unit to operate on its own and he's leveled a series of attacks at two of the company's board members and CEO John Donahoe.

Ebay said Thursday that Icahn is making unsubstantiated claims about the company and that he was "deliberately impugning" the integrity of its directors. Company founder and chairman Pierre Omidyar said that eBay has considered spinning off PayPal, which it bought for $1.3 billion in late 2002, but decided against it.

On Friday, it was Icahn's turn.

Icahn in a letter said that he was "growing tired" of the company's responses and went a step further.

"I can resoundingly tell you that I have never seen what looks to me to be such blatant disregard for fiduciary obligations to stockholders as I have seen at eBay," Icahn said in the latest of several letters this week. "Based on the responses of eBay's public relations machine, the eBay Board seems to be in a state of denial concerning what has occurred under their watch."

A representative for eBay was not immediately available for response Friday.

Among the topics Icahn has taken issue with is a perceived conflict of interest by board members Marc Andreessen, a venture capitalist, and Scott Cook, founder of Intuit. Ebay disputed those claims Thursday and said that the company is "scrupulous" in its governance practices. It also noted that it has guidelines to minimize the impact of any conflicts, including board members recusing themselves from deliberations in which they may have a stake in.

Andreessen defended himself directly in an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, saying that venture capitalists who sit on the boards of private and public technology companies follow the same ethics practices as other industries.

Shares of eBay rose $1.01 to $59.35 by midday Friday, just ahead of broader market gains.