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Ex-EBay chief Meg Whitman quits board seats

Her resignation from the boards of EBay, Procter & Gamble and DreamWorks SKG fuels speculation that she's planning a run for California governor.

January 06, 2009|Marc Lifsher

SACRAMENTO — Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of EBay Inc., has resigned from the board of directors of the online auction company and two other corporations, fueling speculation that she is preparing for a 2010 run for California governor.

The resignations, which were effective Wednesday, from EBay, Procter & Gamble Co. and DreamWorks SKG were made for personal reasons, Whitman spokesman Henry Gomez said Monday.

Gomez declined to comment "on anything having to do with the governor's race." Nevertheless, he noted that Whitman, a Republican, "has said before and it's been widely reported that she is considering a run."

Whitman's actions send a "pretty clear signal" that she's going to be a candidate to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

Schwarzenegger, who was reelected in 2006, is not eligible to run again.

Whitman, 52, is likely to make a more formal statement of intent in four to six weeks, said a person familiar with her plans, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

If she jumps into the 2010 GOP primary, Whitman, who has a net worth of $1.3 billion, according to Forbes magazine, is expected to confront another extremely wealthy former Silicon Valley high-tech executive, California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

He founded SnapTrack Inc., which developed global positioning systems for cellular telephones, and sold the company for $1 billion to Qualcomm Inc. in 2000.

A third potential candidate is former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell (R-San Jose), who has formed an exploratory committee. Campbell is a UC Berkeley business professor.

Whitman and Poizner have a lot more in common than being moderate Republicans with business backgrounds, said Bill Whalen, a Republican strategist and former speechwriter for ex-Gov. Pete Wilson. "They have the ability to write a very large check to their own campaign," Whalen said.

What's more, they both have been working to burnish their Republican credentials: Poizner by traveling around the state to meet with local GOP officials, and Whitman by campaigning last year for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Whalen said.

The Democratic governor's field is even larger. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the presumptive favorite if she decides to seek the office. Other possible contenders include Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, a former governor; Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former state Controller Steve Westly, who also was a top executive at EBay.

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marc.lifsher@latimes.com

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