This month in history: That time eBay spent $2.4B on a Philly-area company

For Philly's 10th anniversary, we're digging through the archives. In March, we found an exit that made people go: “Yowza.”

GSI Commerce's offices in King of Prussia, Pa. (Courtesy photo)

For’s 10-year anniversary, we’re diving deep into the archives for nostalgic, funny or note-worthy updates. This is part of a year-long series.

In 2011, internet staple eBay looked at ecommerce and digital landscape in the Philly suburbs and made a major money move: It acquired GSI Commerce for $2.4 billion in cash and debt.

At the time, the deal was the largest acquisition of the decade, and it cemented the career of a Villanova alum by the name of Michael Rubin.

The ecommerce billionaire you see now stunting next to Meek Mill on a chopper — the one who co-owns the Sixers and is working on criminal reform alongside Jay-Z — founded the suburban Philly firm in 1998, a milestone achievement in a life-long push to become a successful entrepreneur.

The company, which in January of that year had a global workforce of over 4,000, became a part of eBay when the deal officially closed in the third quarter of 2011.

Following the acquisition, Rubin founded a company called Kynetic, an umbrella of sorts for three businesses spun out from GSI: Fanatics, a sports-licensing business; ShopRunner, which offers a two-day shipping service for hundreds of online stores; and flash sales site Rue La La. Rubin owns those companies under the parent company Kynetic.

The move was a version of the “Philly shuffle“: Upon an exit, spinout a business (or three) and give it the funding it needs.

A few more Philly ties to this story:

Earlier this month, this deal was dethroned by the $4.8-billion Spark Therapeutics exit to Roche, confirmed by PitchBook as the largest ever VC exit in Philly proper.

P.S. Come celebrate Philly tech’s successes this May at Philly Tech Week 2019 presented by Comcast NBCUniversal.


For the next bit of Philly tech nostalgia, what’s your favorite story through the years? Tell us here:

Companies: eBay / eBay Enterprise

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