1 min read

When a CEO Speaks

When a CEO Speaks

“take her down.” when said by the leader of a $50B company, it carries weight and ripples into the workplace culture.

The events that unfolded in 2019 could’ve come out of a movie, in rapid fire 🔥…

Ina and David Steiner, publishers of an ecommerce newsletter (Ecommerce Bytes) that held a critical view of eBay were tormented.

The employee taskforce held meetings to plot and execute a campaign of terror on the couple that led to a police and FBI investigation because of how serious it became.

They sent a collection of shocking items to the couple:

- Funeral wreath
- Live coachroaches and spiders
- Preserved fetal pig
- Bloody-faced pig halloween mask
- A book on surviving the loss of a spouse
- Pornography addressed to the victim but delivered to his neighbours

It got serious when Philip Cooke an ex police officer and eBay security manager ran surveillance on the couple and even sabotaged a police investigation. Later the FBI would get involved in the case.

Cooke was ‘just carrying out orders’. Procecutors pointed out the campaign was directed by James Baugh, former head of eBay’s Global Security & Resilience unit.

While the former CEO, Devin Wenig hasn’t been named in the case. His message to Steve Wymer, Communication Chief, to “take her down” eventually led to the events unfolding.

The presiding US District Judge Allison Burroughs sums it best. “The idea of all these grown people sitting around coming up with this plan is unfathomable to me”.


Ultimately a company is made up of people. And the collective values of the people are set and upheld by its leaders.

The effects of culture is so powerful in both directions. It’s also fluid and fragile. The 3 words on a screen from a company’s leader set off a fixation and chain of horrifying events.