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eBay Goes to Sin City

The adult fantasyland of Las Vegas seems a fitting place for eBay to have a middle-age crisis, especially with the mercury hovering at 100 degrees here as some 15,000 sellers stream into the city for the Internet auctioneer's fifth annual user convention.

The Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. (Leslie Walker-The Washington Post)

That's what I thought Monday as I took a cab from the Las Vegas airport to the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. The "eBay Live" convention opens here Tuesday and ends Thursday with a gala dinner featuring Huey Lewis & the News.

EBay turns 11 this fall. Its revenue growth is slowing, its stock price continues to slide and its rivalry with Google is intensifying. No wonder Ebay Inc. chief executive Meg Whitman has been touting a new vision for the company in talks with Wall Street analysts.

The question on my mind is: What will the merchants who helped make eBay a giant of Internet commerce think of its grand plans to move into advertising, financial services and voice communications?

EBay's mercurial merchants have never been shy about telling the firm when they think its fees are out of line, or its software is too glitchy, or its customer service is missing in action. I'm sure they'll be giving Whitman and her team an earful this week.

Whitman will be describing her goals in a keynote address Tuesday night. She may also touch on them at the company's annual shareholder's meeting here Tuesday morning.

(Leslie Walker welcomes your email feedback at leslie @

By Leslie Walker  |  June 12, 2006; 11:52 PM ET  | Category:  EBay Live , Leslie Walker
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