When reading yesterday's solid story in the San Jose Mercury News on Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's tenure as CEO of eBay, I came across a line that stopped me in my tracks -- because I had written it before, about somebody else.
It said that one of Whitman's first acts after being hired in February 1998 was that she "replaced the lawn chairs with corporate cubicles."
Four years ago, in a profile on then-Democratic gubernatorial nominee Steve Westly, also an early eBay executive, I had paraphrased what Westly told me about one of his first acts when he was hired in 1997 as vice president of business development: "to order the office lawn chairs replaced with traditional furniture."
How could Whitman have scrapped the lawn chairs in '98 if Westly jettisoned them in '97?
To get to the bottom of this, I consulted the bible on eBay history and mythology, Adam Cohen's book "The Perfect Store." Cohen puts the year of the lawn chairs' demise at 1997, but credits neither Westly nor Whitman. "(Founder Pierre) Omidyar and (president Jeffrey) Skoll decided that the time had come to replace the beach chairs and assembled desks with real furniture."