Pierre Omidyar

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Pierre Omidyar
Pomidyarji (cropped).jpg
Parviz Morad Omidyar

(1967-06-21) June 21, 1967 (age 55)
Paris, France
United States[2]
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley
Tufts University (BS)
Occupation(s)Founder of eBay
Founder of Honolulu Civil Beat
Founder of Ulupono Initiative
Founder of Omidyar Network
Founder of First Look Media
Board member ofeBay
SpousePamela Kerr

Pierre Morad Omidyar (born Parviz Morad Omidyar, June 21, 1967) is a French-born Iranian-American billionaire. A technology entrepreneur, software engineer, and philanthropist,[3] he is the founder of eBay, where he served as chairman from 1998 to 2015.[4][3] Omidyar and his wife Pamela founded Omidyar Network in 2004. Forbes ranked Omidyar as the 24th-richest person in the world in 2021, with an estimated net worth of $21.8 billion.[2]

Since 2010, Omidyar has been involved in online journalism as the head of investigative reporting and public affairs news service Honolulu Civil Beat.[5] In 2013, he announced that he would create and finance First Look Media, a journalism venture to include Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill.[6][7][8]

Early life and education[edit]

Omidyar was born in Paris, the son of Iranian parents who had immigrated to France for higher education. He was named Parviz.[9] His mother, Elahé Mir-Djalali Omidyar, who earned her doctorate in linguistics at the Sorbonne, is an academic.[10] His father, Cyrus Omidyar (born c. 1934), completed medical education and training in France and is a surgeon.

After immigrating with his family to the United States when Omidyar was a child, the father worked as a urologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He now practices in Aliso Viejo, California.[10]

Omidyar attended Punahou School in Honolulu for a couple of years. (He now serves on its Board of Trustees).[11] His interest in computers began while he was a ninth-grade student at The Potomac School in McLean, Virginia. He graduated in 1984 from St. Andrew's Episcopal School, Potomac, Maryland.

He studied at Tufts University, graduating with a B.S. in computer science in 1988, and the University of California, Berkeley.[12][13][14]


Shortly after studying at Berkeley, Omidyar started working for Claris, an Apple Computer subsidiary. He worked with the team that upgraded MacDraw to MacDraw II.[15] In 1991, he co-founded Ink Development, a pen-based computing startup that later was rebranded as an e-commerce company and renamed eShop Inc.[16][page needed]

Microsoft acquired eShop on June 11, 1996, for less than $50 million, and Omidyar earned $1 million from the deal.[17][18][19][16][page needed]

Founding eBay[edit]

Omidyar with Richard Branson

In 1995, at the age of 28, Omidyar began to write the original computer code for an online venue to enable the listing of a direct person-to-person auction for collectible items. He created a simple prototype on his web page. On Labor Day, Monday, September 4, 1995, he launched an online service called Auction Web, which would eventually be developed as the auction site eBay.[20]

The service was originally one of several items on Omidyar's website eBay.com. His website also had a section devoted to the Ebola virus, among other topics.[21][22]

The first item sold on the eBay site was a broken laser pointer.[23] Omidyar was astonished that anyone would pay for a broken device, but the buyer assured him that he was deliberately collecting broken laser pointers. Similar surprises followed. The business exploded as correspondents began to register trade goods of an unimaginable variety.

Omidyar incorporated the enterprise; the small fee he collected on each sale financed the expansion of the site. The revenue soon outstripped his salary at General Magic and nine months later, Omidyar decided to dedicate his full attention to his new enterprise.

By 1996, when Omidyar signed a licensing deal to offer airline tickets online, the site had hosted 250,000 auctions. In the first month of 1997, it hosted two million. By the middle of that year, eBay was hosting nearly 800,000 auctions a day.[20]

In 1997, Omidyar changed the company's name from AuctionWeb to eBay, and began to advertise the service aggressively. The name "eBay" was his second choice. His first choice was already registered to a Canadian mining company, Echo Bay Mines. He originally wanted Echo Bay, the name of a recreational area near Lake Mead, Nevada, because it "sounded cool". When he learned that echobay.com was taken, he dropped the "cho", and ebay.com was born.[24] The frequently repeated story that eBay was founded to help Omidyar's fiancée trade Pez candy dispensers was fabricated by a public relations manager in 1997 to interest the media. This was revealed in Adam Cohen's 2002 book,[25] and confirmed by eBay.

Later years[edit]

Jeffrey Skoll joined the company in 1996. In March 1998, Meg Whitman was brought in as president and CEO. She ran the company until January 2008, when she announced her retirement. In September 1998, eBay launched a successful public offering, making both Omidyar and Skoll billionaires.

In 2002, eBay bought PayPal, an online payment company. Later, in 2015, they spun PayPal off.[26] Omidyar still owns 6% of its worth .[27]

As of July 2008, Omidyar's 178 million eBay shares were worth around $4.45 billion.[28] Omidyar is an investor in Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach, California.

Omidyar is also a member of the Berggruen Institute's 21st Century Council.[29]

In 2020, Omidyar stepped down from the board of eBay as part of a broader overhaul of the company. He has, however, stayed active in the company, retaining the title of director emeritus.[30]

News media businesses[edit]

In 2010, Omidyar launched an online investigative reporting news service, Honolulu Civil Beat, covering civic affairs in Hawaii. The site was named Best News Website in Hawaii for 2010, 2011, and 2012.[31] On September 4, 2013, Honolulu Civil Beat started a partnership with HuffPost, launching HuffPost Hawaii.

In 2013, prompted by the Edward Snowden leaks,[32] Omidyar announced the creation of the journalism venture First Look Media, which on February 10, 2014, launched The Intercept, drawing from journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill, Dan Froomkin, John Temple, and Jay Rosen.[7][33]

Film production[edit]

Omidyar has been part of the executive producer team for the following films.

Omidyar Network[edit]

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives.[36] It was established in 2004 by Omidyar and his wife, Pam.[37] The organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic, social, and political change. To date, Omidyar Network has committed more than $992 million to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple investment areas, including Property Rights, Governance & Citizen Engagement, Education, Financial Inclusion and Consumer & Internet Mobile.[38] In 2010, he and his wife established, along with Richard Branson and the Nduna Foundation (founded by Amy Robbins), Enterprise Zimbabwe.[39]

In 2018 Omidyar established the global philanthropic organisation named Luminate Group. He separated the organization into a separate unit from his ten-year Governance & Engagement initiative.[40][41]

Personal life[edit]

Omidyar with his wife Pamela

Omidyar and his wife Pamela own properties in Henderson, Nevada,[42] and Honolulu, Hawaii.[43] According to Forbes, his net worth was US$13.1 billion as of January 2019.[27] He is a major donor to Democratic Party candidates and organizations.[44]

Omidyar, a Buddhist follower of the Dalai Lama[45] who in 2010 joined Bill Gates and Warren Buffett as a signatory of The Giving Pledge, has declared his intention to give away most of his wealth during his lifetime.[46] In 2019, he donated approximately $500 million to charitable causes.[47]

Antitrust activism and criticism of big tech[edit]

He has bankrolled groups like the anti-monopoly think tank Open Markets Institute and the digital rights group Public Knowledge Project, in the fight against the big tech companies, which he criticizes as overly powerful and destructive to democracy.[48] His advocacy and philanthropic investment firm the Omidyar Network distributed widely read papers laying out the antitrust cases against Facebook and Google.[48] In February 2021, his network hosted a series on whistleblowing, and is now providing financial support to Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. Omidyar has given funding to the Center for Humane Technology, whose head of public affairs is Haugen's top PR representative in the US.[48]

Awards and honors[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Le Figaro profile: Pierre Omidyar, le mécène". Le Figaro. August 15, 2014. Retrieved January 11, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Pierre Omidyar". Forbes. Retrieved April 1, 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Pierre Omidyar". US Virtual Embassy Iran. January 1, 2015. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  4. ^ Viegas 2006, p. 13
  5. ^ "Hawaii News - Honolulu Civil Beat - Investigative Reporting". Civil Beat.
  6. ^ "The extraordinary promise of the new Greenwald-Omidyar venture (UPDATED)". Columbia Journalism Review.
  7. ^ a b Hosenball, Mark (October 15, 2013). "Here's Who's Backing Glenn Greenwald's New Website". Huffpost. Archived from the original on April 2, 2019.
  8. ^ Jay Rosen (December 19, 2013). "A First Look at NewCo's structure". Pressthink.org.
  9. ^ Viegas 2006, p. 14
  10. ^ a b Viegas 2006, p. 16
  11. ^ Rick Daysog (March 22, 2009). "A 'wonderful rediscovery' in isles - EBAY FOUNDER MAKES HOME IN HAWAII".
  12. ^ Viegas 2006, p. 92.
  13. ^ Cohen, Adam (June 16, 2002). "The Perfect Store". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  14. ^ Ellison, Sarah (December 3, 2014). "Can First Look Media Make Headlines That Aren't About Itself?". The Hive. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  15. ^ Swaraj, Shyam (June 20, 2019). "Happy BDay Pierre Omidyar: Turned His Hobby Into $38 Billion Company". Dazeinfo. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Viegas 2006.
  17. ^ "Microsoft Acquires eShop Inc". Microsoft. January 4, 2009. Archived from the original on January 4, 2009. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
  18. ^ "Microsoft Corp acquires eShop Inc (1996/06/11) - Thomson Financial Mergers & Acquisitions - AlacraStore.com". August 3, 2009. Archived from the original on August 3, 2009. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
  19. ^ "MS adds eShop to its buying spree". CNET. June 11, 1996. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
  20. ^ a b "Pierre Omidyar Biography and Interview". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  21. ^ Erin Griffith (October 16, 2014). "eBay started as a website about Ebola". Fortune. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  22. ^ Kyle Alspach (October 17, 2014). "Ebay began as a site about Ebola, but it's a mystery what was on it". BostInno. Archived from the original on October 20, 2014. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  23. ^ Cava, Marco della. "eBay's 20th made possible by Canadian retiree". USA TODAY. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  24. ^ Viegas 2006, p. 52.
  25. ^ Cohen 2002.
  26. ^ "eBay Inc. Board Approves Completion of eBay and PayPal Separation". About eBay. December 28, 2015. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
  27. ^ a b "Pierre Omidyar". Forbes. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  28. ^ "EBAY: Major Holders for eBay Inc". Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved February 25, 2010.
  29. ^ "Berggruen Institute". Archived from the original on January 6, 2017. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  30. ^ Armental, Maria (September 10, 2020). "EBay Founder Pierre Omidyar Steps Down From Board". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  31. ^ "Civil Beat Named Best Hawaii News Website for the Third Year in a Row". Honolulu Civil Beat. June 29, 2010. Archived from the original on July 5, 2013.
  32. ^ Rice, Andrew (November 2, 2014). "The Pierre Omidyar Insurgency". New York Magazine. Archived from the original on November 19, 2018.
  33. ^ Byers, Dylan (November 17, 2013). "NYU's Jay Rosen to join Omidyar venture". Politico. Archived from the original on March 12, 2016.
  34. ^ Kilday, Gregg (August 7, 2014). "Robert Kenner's Doc 'Merchants of Doubt' Goes to Sony Pictures Classics - Hollywood Reporter". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  35. ^ Chang, Justin (September 3, 2015). "'Spotlight' Review: Michael Keaton Stars in Drama About Catholic Abuse Scandals". Variety. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  36. ^ Guth, Robert A. (October 22, 2008). "EBay Founder's Philanthropic Firm to Donate More". The Wall Street Journal.
  37. ^ Frankel, Carl; Bromberger, Allen (June 1, 2013). The Art of Social Enterprise: Business as if People Mattered. New Society Publishers. ISBN 978-1-55092-534-0.
  38. ^ "Omidyar Network". Retrieved September 7, 2016.
  39. ^ "Branson Charity Focuses Aid Effort on Zimbabwe". STEPHANIE STROM. The New York Times, September 20, 2010.
  40. ^ Field, Anne. "Omidyar Network's Luminate Spinoff Seeks To Protect Democracies Under Attack". Forbes. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  41. ^ "Pierre Omidyar". Forbes. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  42. ^ "Pierre Omidyar's House". Virtual Globetrotting. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  43. ^ "Forbes Profile: Pierre Omidyar". Forbes. Retrieved March 21, 2021.
  44. ^ "Pierre Omidyar". Influence Watch.
  45. ^ Todd, Felix (December 31, 2018). "Five Buddhist business leaders: From Alibaba co-founder to eBay's creator". NS Business. Archived from the original on May 24, 2020.
  46. ^ York, Carnegie Corporation of New. "Pierre Omidyar". Carnegie Corporation of New York. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  47. ^ Schleifer, Theodore (February 11, 2020). "Tech billionaires give away billions to charity — but it's just a small fraction of their staggering wealth". Vox. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  48. ^ a b c Birnbaum, Emily (October 20, 2021). "The Tech Billionaire Aiding the Facebook-Whistleblower". Politico.
  49. ^ "Pierre Omidyar". Tufts Now. October 16, 2013. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  50. ^ "Hall of Fame - EY Entrepreneur of the Year". Hall of Fame - EY Entrepreneur Of The Year. N.p., n.d. Web. April 13, 2015. Search: "Pierre Omidyar"<http://eoyhof.ey.com/#!/search Archived June 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine>.
  51. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  52. ^ "Photo: Quincy Jones presents the Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award to Pierre Omidyar at historic Hampton Court Palace during the 2000 International Achievement Summit in London". American Academy of Achievement.
  53. ^ "Top 100 French Entrepreneurs 2018: From Claude Posternak to Fleur Pellerin, These Are the Most Influential Entrepreneurs From France". Richtopia. August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
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Further reading[edit]

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Business positions
Preceded by
New title
Chairman of eBay
Succeeded by