eBay Loses VP Communications As Michelle Friedman Moves On To Samsara

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


eBay's VP Global Communications, Michelle Friedman has departed the company to take on the same role at Samsara, a cloud platform built for tracking and analyzing data from physical operations.

Friedman made the announcement on LinkedIn, saying she is eager to lead strategic initiatives, amplify the Samsara brand, and foster meaningful connections in her new role.

She spent 15 years in corporate communications roles handling public relations and crisis management at PetSmart before joining eBay in September 2020.

That crisis management experience was much needed as Friedman took over corporate comms at a particularly tricky time for eBay - just a few short months after news of the 2019 eBay Cyberstalking Scandal hit the headlines with ex-Chief Communications Officer Steve Wymer playing a prominent role.

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The bizarre corporate plot targeted Ina and David Steiner, the editor and publisher of ecommerce news site EcommerceBytes, seeking to change the tone and content of their reporting and to unmask the identity of unsuckEBAY, a frequent commenter and source who also sparked the ire of top executives at the company.

Documents from the criminal and civil cases have revealed sordid details of the harassment that included disturbing deliveries of live insects, bloody pig masks and funeral wreaths as well as threatening messages, doxxing, which ultimately escalated to in-person stalking and an attempted break-in at the hands of eBay security personnel.

Seven eBay security employees were charged criminally and pleaded guilty to multiple federal felonies, but the civil lawsuit also extended to include eBay as well as CEO Devin Wenig, Wymer, and SVP Global Operations Wendy Jones, saying communications from the very top egged on the harassment - especially those from Wymer.

For example, in an email with Chief Legal Officer Marie Oh Huber copied, Wymer vented his frustration about EcommerceBytes and unsuckEBAY, saying he was utterly vexed and anything that could by done to solve the "problem" should be explored, Whatever. It. Takes.

Wymer's communications with Senior Director Security Jim Baugh were even worse, telling Baugh that Ina Steiner was a biased troll who needed to be burned down and that he would embrace managing any bad fall out.

But Wymer was not alone in his disdain for the victims - the other executives including Wenig were equally "vexed."

Other messages between Wenig (Executive 1) and Wymer (Executive 2), showed increasingly amped up reactions to EcommerceBytes' coverage, including a message to "take her down."

On April 20, 2019, discussing the Wall Street Journal's coverage of Executive 1, Executive 1 texted to Executive 2, "Fuck them. The journal is next on the list after [Victim 1]."

On May 31, 2019, commenting on the Newsletter's coverage of eBay that day, Executive 2 texted to Executive 1, "Shockingly reasonable..." Executive 1 replied, "I couldn't care less what she says." Seconds later, Executive 1 added, "Take her down."

Source: Steiner et al v. eBay Inc. et al 1:21-cv-11181 Doc 1 Exhibit A

Wenig was graciously allowed to resigned in September 2019 and take a $57 million golden parachute on his way out, blaming conflict with the board and activist investors as news of the scandal had not yet been made public.

He still sits on the boards of several companies including Salesforce and GM, as well as running a charitable organization with his wife Cindy, ironically supporting justice system reforms and independent journalism.

Wymer was fired by eBay for cause in September 2019 but landed a new gig a year later as CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Silicon Valley, thanks to his close ties with then San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo - announced on Twitter with his signature "whatever it takes" hashtag.

Current CEO Jamie Iannone was brought on board in April 2020 and the scandal became publicly known when the first criminal charges were brought in June, with Friedman coming in to pick up the pieces and get busy on the crisis management front when she joined in September.

During her time at eBay, she led a 70-plus member team, served as an advisor to the executive leadership team and "communicated the company’s transformation strategy by reframing narrative aimed at amplifying a rededication to the purpose and successful execution of a new strategy" according to her LinkedIn profile.

That makes her departure in April 2024 even more interestingly timed as eBay has undergone a major strategy shift in the last few months, beginning with Chief Business Strategy Office Stefanie Jay abruptly stepping down after mass layoffs at the company.

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Neither Friedman nor eBay have responded to requests for comment and eBay has not yet announced who will be taking over global communications going forward.


Liz Morton Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!

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