* Craigslist founder Newmark faces cross-examination
* Craigslist CEO likely to take stand on Friday
By Tom Hals
WILMINGTON, Del., Dec 11 (Reuters) - Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said he had never visited eBay Inc’s rival classified ad site, which is the center of a bitter legal fight between the two companies.
Craig Newmark was being cross-examined on Friday about what he knew of eBay’s (EBAY.O) Kijiji classified business before it launched in the United States. “I’ve never looked at it, so I wouldn’t know,” said Newmark.
Asked if he had ever looked at the site, Newmark said: “I don’t recall ever looking at it.”
Newmark is defending his classified ad company, Craigslist, against claims that it unfairly stripped eBay of a board seat as relations between the web giants soured.
EBay sued Craigslist over what it says was a “coercive plan” hatched by Newmark and his company’s chief executive officer, Jim Buckmaster, to dilute its ownership stake after it launched Kijiji in the United States in 2007.
Craigslist has sued eBay in San Francisco, saying the larger rival used its board seat to glean confidential information about the classified ad business.
EBay’s attorney started Friday’s cross-examination by asking Newmark to review information available on Craigslist, in an apparent bid to show eBay had access to plenty of public information about the classified ad market.
Newmark rarely gave yes or no answers, giving responses such as “it appears to be so” or “that would be my understanding” to such questions as whether a history of Craigslist that appears on its own website was public.
EBay bought its stake in Craigslist in 2004 from Philip Knowlton, a disgruntled former Craigslist employee, in the hopes of acquiring the entire classified site company.
Meg Whitman, a former eBay CEO, told the Georgetown, Delaware, court on Monday that she had considered classifieds an important area in which to expand and originally considered Craigslist as her company’s “play” in that market.
Whitman said eBay hoped to form a bond with Newmark and Buckmaster and eventually convince them eBay would make a “good home” for Craigslist.
Emails introduced in court as evidence and as a basis for questioning have shown a culture clash between the companies right from the start.
EBay executives focused on “monetization” in their dealings with Craigslist and mocked Newmark and Buckmaster for their “amateurish board meetings” and inability to use the Power Point software program.
Newmark said on Thursday that his job at Craigslist was “customer service rep” and repeatedly emphasized the company’s identity as a community service.
He told the court he was not comfortable with luxury, drawing a firm distinction between himself and eBay’s billionaire founder, Pierre Omidyar.
Emails showed eBay executives considered the relationship with Craigslist “dead” within a year of their company becoming a shareholder.
Emails also showed eBay executives thought the Kijiji launch would violate provisions of their shareholder agreement with Craigslist and expected they would lose their seat on the classified ad company’s board as a result.
Buckmaster will probably take the stand later on Friday, with the trial expected to continue into next week.
The trial is taking place in Delaware, where Craigslist is incorporated, and is being broadcast over Courtroom View Network.
The case is eBay Domestic Holdings Inc v Newmark, et al, Delaware Chancery Court, No. 3705-CC. (Additional reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Francisco)