San Francisco - Facebook hired EBay’s PayPal president David Marcus to lead its mobile messaging business, as the social network seeks to gain an advantage in a fast-growing and competitive business.
Marcus, 41, is leaving PayPal on June 27, according to a statement from EBay.
He will head up Facebook’s Messenger application and other mobile messaging efforts, reporting to chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Javier Olivan, who is in charge of growth at the social network, said Vanessa Chan, a spokeswoman at the Menlo Park, California-based company.
Marcus is charged with eventually finding a business model for Messenger, which currently doesn’t make any revenue, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.
The executive’s mandate won’t include messaging startup WhatsApp, which Facebook said in February it would acquire for $19 billion and which will operate independently, Chan said.
The hire is a major Silicon Valley executive defection and underscores how Facebook is bolstering its product portfolio with a key new recruit.
Apart from agreeing to buy WhatsApp, Facebook has said it will acquire virtual-reality goggles maker Oculus VR and has diversified into photo sharing with startup Instagram.
The company has also released its own standalone apps, including Facebook Paper, which delivers a magazine-like experience on mobile phones and tablets.
Messaging is a particularly competitive area as more people use the apps to communicate on the go.
Companies including Rakuten and Tencent have pushed into the industry to be on the front lines of how consumers communicate with one another on their mobile devices.
Alibaba Group and others are investing in up-and-coming messaging apps such as TangoMe.
“Messaging is a core part of Facebook’s service and key to achieving our mission of making the world more open and connected,” Facebook said in a statement.
The company said 12 billion messages are sent every day on its social network and that its Messenger app is used by more than 200 million people every month.
Prior to agreeing to buy WhatsApp, Facebook was struggling with the rise of mobile messaging, as the apps threatened people’s usage of the social network.
Meanwhile, Facebook was grappling with how to fit all the features of its social networking product into a single mobile application.
Starting this year, the company has been dividing parts of the product into their own standalone apps to make them easier to use.
One such app is Slingshot, which enables people to share disappearing moments and that would compete with Snapchat.
Facebook accidentally released Slingshot and then pulled it from several countries today.
Facebook, which has vacuumed up talent in recent years from other Silicon Valley technology companies including Google, declined to make Marcus available for an interview and said he wouldn’t be in charge of Slingshot.
“Facebook is still a place that can hire talent that can seemingly go anywhere,” said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research.
Marcus’s departure from EBay follows his work building up PayPal’s payments business since joining the company in 2011 and becoming PayPal president in 2012.
Marcus boosted PayPal’s active accounts by more than 30 percent to almost 150 million users at the beginning of this year from the quarter after he was named president.
He also grew payments volume to $52 billion in the first quarter, up about 50 percent over the same period.
PayPal is one of EBay’s faster-growing businesses, which has helped boost the company as a whole as its traditional e-commerce business underwent a turnaround.
In the first quarter, PayPal’s revenue rose 19 percent to $1.85 billion, while EBay’s marketplaces business -- which includes auctions and sales of fixed-price items -- increased 10 percent to $2.16 billion.
Marcus’s exit is “challenging for EBay,” said Robert Peck, an analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.
“To leave during a turnaround is going to create a little more pressure than they had before.”
PayPal was recently targeted by activist investor Carl Icahn, who agitated for the San Jose, California-based Web company to spin off the payments business.
Icahn and EBay settled the proxy fight in April.
EBay chief executive John Donahoe said in a statement that he wished Marcus well. He didn’t name a replacement for Marcus at PayPal.
“An entrepreneur at heart, David has made a career decision to focus on what he loves most –- leading smaller teams to create great product experiences,” Donahoe said in a statement.
Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman for EBay, said Marcus’s departure wasn’t tied to the proxy fight with Icahn this year.
Marcus, a native of France, joined PayPal after EBay acquired his mobile-payments startup, Zong.
The executive has long had an entrepreneurial streak.
After studying economics at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, Marcus started his first company at 23.
That venture, called GTN Telecom, grew to be one of the top telecommunications carriers in Switzerland.
He later founded Echovox, the foundation for Zong.
In a post on Facebook, Marcus said he found it difficult to manage a large team at PayPal where he “suddenly found myself leading 14,000,” he wrote.
“The first year took its toll on me. It was hard.”
Marcus wrote that Zuckerberg later talked to him about taking on the new role at Facebook.
“Mark shared a compelling vision about Mobile Messaging,” said Marcus in his post.
“At first, I didn’t know whether another big company gig was a good thing for me, but Mark’s enthusiasm, and the unparalleled reach and consumer engagement of the Facebook platform ultimately won me over.”
Marcus wrote that he realised his passion is one of building products “that hopefully matter to a lot of people.”
Marcus earned $6.04 million at EBay in 2013, including salary, stock, option awards and other incentive pay, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. - Bloomberg News