eBay CEO: We 'can't afford' to buy Airbnb

July 22, 2013: 5:42 PM ET

Why shouldn't the stuff marketplace buy the places marketplace?

John Donahoe, CEO of eBay (left) and AirBnb founder Brian Chesky

John Donahoe, CEO of eBay (left) and AirBnb founder Brian Chesky

FORTUNE -- eBay CEO John Donahoe today appeared on stage at Fortune BrainstormTech alongside Airbnb founder Brian Chesky, to discuss how the two have become sounding boards for one another. It was a very candid conversation, until Donahoe was asked why eBay hasn't offered to buy Airbnb.

"We can't afford it," Donahoe said.

Really? As of last check, eBay (EBAY) had more than $9 billion in cash and short-term investments. Not to mention a market cap in excess of $67 billion. Airbnb may be one of the fastest growing companies in Silicon Valley, but it's still nowhere near those levels.

So what's really going on? Is it possible that the two companies actually are discussing some sort of deal, or that Donahoe wants to do so in the future. After all, it does make sense for the leading stuff marketplace to buy the leading places marketplace. Maybe that's why Donahoe backed off an earlier notion to add Chesky to the eBay board of directors ...

To be clear, I have no inside info suggesting that such a move is afoot. But I do know that Donahoe didn't want to honestly answer the question.

For the past year, the two leaders have been meeting regularly to share ideas and to offer advice on everything from how to be more innovative to how to hire a CFO. Chesky said the reason the relationship works so well is that neither one of them has a stake in the other executive's company.

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About This Author
Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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