UPDATE 7/15: Latest rumor is eBay Enterprise (including the former GSI Commerce) is the subject of sale talks valuing the unit at around $925 million, for a group of private-equity firms led by Pemira. Sale has been authorized but not finalized; eBay marked down $300 million in quarterly eBay Enterprise sales as "discontinued earnings" in yesterday's three-month report.
EARLIER: "Private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners LP is in advanced talks to acquire the enterprise business of eBay Inc for close to $1 billion," a big drop from the $2.4 billion eBay paid for it four years ago, Reuters reports here, citing unnamed sources. A deal isn't certain. Other buyout firms have offered less. Lee and eBay wouldn't comment to Reuters.
EBay's enterprise group is built around the former GSI Commerce in King of Prussia, which helped retailers like Dick's Sporting Goods sell online without having to split their profits with industry giant Amazon.com. GSI employed around 5,000, mostly at warehouses, when eBay bought it from public shareholders and founder Michael Rubin in 2011, but it has struggled lately as retailers -- including, most recently, Toys R Us -- have found it increasingly efficient to run their own online operations.
Michael Saridakis, a popular and energetic GSI executive and veteran digital-ad business developer who had been expected to run the company for eBay, left soon after the eBay deal. He was later sentenced to prison after confessing he had tipped friends to eBay's offer before it was announced to the public, enabling them to buy GSI shares just before they went up and profit from illegal insider information.
When Rubin sold GSI, he kept three business units, including sports retailer Fanatics, as well as shopping systems ShopRunner and Rue La La, as part of his West Conshohocken holding company, Kynetic. Under terms of the sale he worked closely with eBay; Kynetic later attracted investment from China internet giant Alibaba.
Under pressure from investors disappointed by sales and profit growth and share prices, EBay earlier spun off its PayPal Holdings Inc. online payment unit.
Boston-based Thomas H. Lee's other investments include Black Knight mortgage software, Ceridian mortgage software and the Fogo de Chao steakhouse chain, among others. The firm was formerly a major investor in Philadelphia-based cafeteria-management giant Aramark Corp., but has sold most of its Aramark shares and booked profits as Aramark shares have gained value since early 2014.