UPDATE 1-Icahn challenges eBay to public debate

Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:19am EST

Feb 27 (Reuters) - Activist investor Carl Icahn challenged eBay Inc executives to a public debate after accusing two company directors of conflicts of interest earlier this week.

Icahn, who disclosed a 2.15 percent stake in the e-commerce giant last week, had accused two long-time eBay board members, Marc Andreessen and Scott Cook, of having business interests that directly competed with eBay.

In his third letter to eBay shareholders this week, Icahn said on Thursday he had agreed to a public debate on CNBC business channel, but eBay had not responded.

"EBay has challenged us to focus on honest, accurate debate. We do not believe eBay is serious about this," Icahn wrote in the letter.

EBay could not be immediately reached for comment on the proposed debate.

However, eBay founder and Chairman Pierre Omidyar defended Andreessen and Cook, saying Icahn had chosen to attack the integrity of two qualified board members instead of having an "honest discussion."

Icahn, who called last month for eBay to sell off its fast-growing PayPal payments business, had also promised to lay out in the coming weeks a detailed case for spinning off PayPal.

Omidyar, in a statement on Thursday, rejected Icahn's call to separate PayPal, reiterating the company's position that the businesses were better off together.

Omidyar, who is the largest shareholder in eBay with a stake of 8.37 percent, said the board had evaluated the option of spinning off PayPal, but decided against it.

EBay shares were up 1.5 percent at $58.21 on the Nasdaq on Thursday morning.