Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO who got trounced in the race for California governor last November, has a new career plan: Venture capital with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
By Patricia Sellers
Meg Whitman, who is in Hawaii until Wednesday with her neurosurgeon husband Griff Harsh, declined to comment, but sources close to her and to the venerable Silicon Valley venture capital firm say that Kleiner will bring Whitman in as a strategic adviser to help scope investments and coach startups.
Given Kleiner’s latest leanings toward mid- and late-stage bets on hot consumer businesses — Twitter, Groupon, and Spotify, to name three — getting Whitman’s help makes some sense. Her pedigree includes not only a decade building eBay EBAY, where she left the CEO post in 2008 after a series of missteps, but also previous stints at Walt Disney DIS and Procter & Gamble PG — whose board she rejoined after losing the contest for governor.
Moreover, Whitman, 54, is friendly with such Kleiner partners as Juliet de Baubigny. And this past winter, Whitman went on vacation to New Zealand with another partner of the firm: Mary Meeker, who is a fellow transplant to the VC world. Meeker quit Morgan Stanley MS, where she had built a reputation as Wall Street’s most influential Internet-stock analyst, to go to join Kleiner last November. And she’s made her mark quickly by applying her analytics and wielding her clout on those mid- to late-stage startups.
Whitman’s role at Kleiner will be part-time, as she pursues board duties (she recently joined the board of Hewlett Packard too) and other callings in her post-campaign life. By joining the same VC firm that lured Al Gore and Colin Powell in their respective political twilights, she’s making a pretty safe move image-wise.
Of course, a gig at Kleiner Perkins, the firm that bet early on such startups as Google GOOG and Amazon.com AMZN, could pay off in real dollars as well. That may be no small deal to the political neophyte who spent $145 million of her own money and got nothing to show for it.
One good sign for her new calling at Kleiner: A source close to Whitman says that by investing wisely in a rising stock market since last November, she has earned back that $145 million she lost.