Monday, Apr. 18, 2005

Meg Whitman

On Wall Street, people are always looking for the next great company no one has ever heard of. Meg Whitman, 48, is one of the few people I know who not only discovered one—she made it better. When she was asked to become eBay's CEO in 1998, she was already successful in the conventional corporate world, running a division of a major toymaker. Then she met the people at the tiny Internet company, and she could see something even beyond what they imagined. At the time, everyone was talking about portals like Yahoo! and shopping sites like Amazon, not online auctions. It was a huge risk for her to take the job, but she had the guts to leave what was comfortable and follow her instincts. It still surprises me how rare that quality is in the business world, but Meg has it.

I can't imagine a more important qualification for running a company like eBay.

It isn't just a dynamic, sprawling business—the place where I go to buy china in my pattern. It is a totally new marketplace. Over the past 100 years, the stock market has created a lot of wealth for a lot of people. eBay is essentially doing the same thing. The men (at the time they were all men) who ran the stock market in its early days had to write the rules as they went along. It was messy and must have been thrilling. There is no guidebook for what Meg has to do at eBay—run a virtual business that hundreds of thousands of people rely on for their livelihoods—but she has managed to steer that ship expertly, without taking herself too seriously or losing sight of what's best in the long run for her company. I knew when I first met her that she was sharp and capable. The success of eBay shows that she has a vision for a new kind of company. And she has set the standard for a new kind of CEO.

Krawcheck is chief financial officer and head of strategy at Citigroup

From the Archive
The Attic of e: From yesteryear's treasures to yesterday's garbage, there's a place and a price for everything. What are you collecting?