Is Apple Pay the reason eBay is spinning off PayPal?

October 1, 2014, 1:18 PM UTC

For eight months, eBay CEO John Donahoe resisted Carl Icahn’s repeated calls to spin off its PayPal subsidiary — telling Fortune‘s JP Mangalindan that the two companies were more valuable together than they would be apart.

What made him change his mind? Bank Innovation’s Ian Kar has a plausible backstory.

According to Kar, Donahoe’s mistake was throwing in with Samsung on a fingerprint scanning system that would compete with Apple’s TouchID. Talks between Apple and PayPal broke down (Apple “kicked them out the door,” says one of Kar’s sources), and when Apple Pay was unveiled last month — with wide financial industry support — Pay Pal had been cut out of the deal.

Suddenly, the company became more valuable as an acquisition by an Apple competitor — Google (GOOG) comes to mind — than as part of eBay (EBAY).

When you put it in a timeline, it almost makes sense.

  • Jan. 30: PayPal reported to be in talks with Apple about partnering in what became Apple Pay (Re/Code)
  • Jan. 23: Carl Icahn buys a large stake in eBay, urges PayPal spinoff (Market Folly)
  • Feb. 25: PayPal’s deal with Samsung on a fingerprint scanner is revealed. (SlashGear)
  • March 10: Under growing pressure from Icahn, eBay’s Donahoe tells Fortune that PayPal and eBay are more valuable together than apart (Fortune )
  • June 9: PayPal president David Marcus, who had opposed the Samsung collaboration, leaves for Facebook (Re/Code)
  • Sept. 9: Apple unveils Apple Pay. Analysts zero in on PayPal’s absence. (Fortune)
  • Sept. 30: eBay announces that it will spin off PayPal in 2015. Donahoe will step down after it’s done (eBay)
  • Sept. 30: Donahoe tells Fortune’s Mangalindan why he changed his mind. He doesn’t mention Apple Pay. (Fortune)


Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at or subscribe via his RSS feed.