Charlotte Street Partners



One person’s rubbish…

Written by Tom Gillingham, associate partner
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
3 September 2020

Good morning,

Twenty-five years ago today, French-born Iranian-American Pierre Omidyar founded a company called AuctionWeb. Its successful early sale of a broken laser pointer did not indicate the heights the site, later re-christened ‘eBay’, would scale.

In becoming a multibillion dollar company, eBay transcended its early reliance on the strength of the Beanie Baby market to dominate the online auction and person-to-person sales world.

Offering a reminder of why it’s been one of the few true Dotcom survivors, the company has cruised through the pandemic with a boom in the sale of ‘preloved’ fashion and homeware, a trend thought to have been accelerated by lockdowns and high street closures.

Its continued success is testament to the idea that “one person’s rubbish may be another’s treasure”. But this truth also presents significant communications challenges. The company has had to react to waves of negative publicity relating to its wares and the format of its marketplace in the past quarter of a century.

Back in the spring, the company had to remove more than 15 million listings around the world as sellers tried to cash in on desperate demand for items like face masks and hand sanitiser.

Beyond that, there is an entire Wikipedia page devoted to historic ‘criticism of eBay’. It paints a painful picture of a seemingly endless battle against fraud, forgeries and rigged feedback. As with so many contemporary tech platforms, the artist formerly known as AuctionWeb can be a stage for some of the worst facets of human nature.

Omidyar once said: “In February of 1996, about six months after I created eBay… everyone was complaining about each other. I felt very much like I was a parent who had to adjudicate the brothers beating each other up.”

It feels like a prescient observation, if you subscribe to the idea that the internet has gone from a place of wide-eyed optimism in the 1990s to something much more cynical in the last few years. Reading through some of the complaints and controversies, eBay could easily be held up as a case study of this transformation.

But despite the earlier quote, the company’s founder does not wholly subscribe to the idea of internet evil. After all, he’s made a fortune out of seeing treasure where others see trash. So perhaps, even in this sceptical age, it’s worth ending with some of his more positive words: “If you give people the opportunity to do the right thing, you’ll rarely be disappointed.”


EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said it is the “UK’s responsibility” to find a compromise to avoid leaving the bloc without a deal. He met his British counterpart, David Frost, in London yesterday ahead of the eighth round of negotiations next week.

World leaders are demanding answers from Russian president Vladimir Putinafter toxicological examinations suggested that critically ill opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent from the novichok family.

Britain is putting £500m into trials of rapid Covid-19 tests and into population-testing for the disease, according to health secretary Matt Hancock. He believes mass testing, using faster methods, will be the key to restoring freedoms.

Business and economy

Mortgage deals available to borrowers with low deposits have plummeted sharply in recent months due to lender caution during the economic fall-out from coronavirus. Data shows that borrowers able to offer 10% of the value of a home up-front could have picked from 779 deals at the start of March, but that has now fallen to around 60.

The French government unveiled the long-awaited €100bn ‘France relaunch’ plan that Emmanuel Macron is hoping will transform the economy, and boost his popularity with voters, ahead of the next elections in two years’ time.

According to Bank of England governor, Andrew Bailey, inflation will be higher than expected in the coming months because restaurants and hotels have used the government’s VAT cut to cover rising costs, rather than passing savings on to customers. (£)

Columns of note

Writing in the Times, James Marriott ponders whether having a closed mind is the key to a good life, suggesting that sometimes the battle to remain open-minded can feel like wasted effort. He concludes that we are all closed-minded to some degree, but recognising that very fact opens up some space for a form of middle ground that can make our existence less tiring. (£) 

In a piece for the Guardian, pollster James Johnson suggests that recent polls showing Labour neck-and-neck with the Conservatives on a UK level should be taken with a pinch of salt. He says that Sir Keir Starmer has enjoyed a good start to his leadership, but cautions that Labour has seen similarly positive – and even better numbers – in the recent past. He suggests that the Labour brand still carries a level of toxicity that will be hard to shake, and that the Tories currently have more to worry about from their own backbenchers.

Cartoon source: The Times


What happened yesterday?

London stocks finished up on Wednesday, with gains led by housebuilders in the wake of an upbeat survey from Nationwide.

The FTSE 100 ended the session up 1.35% at 5,940.95, and the FTSE 250 was also up, by 0.57% at 17,704.42. Sterling had a mixed day, falling 0.5% against the dollar to $1.33, but gaining 0.16% on the euro to €1.13.

Despite weaker than expected payroll data in the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day up 1.59% at 29,100.50, the S&P 500 was up by 1.54% at 3,580.84, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.98% at 12,056.44.

In company news:

In the UK, housebuilders were the main winners of the day, led by Redrow, which was up 7.29%, alongside increases for Taylor Wimpey (+7.14%), Persimmon (+5.64%), Bellway (+5.45%), Berkeley (+4.69%) and Barratt Developments (+1.27%).

In other significant movements, Computacenter rose by 11.61% as it said its annual results were likely to be materially better than previous expectations.

What’s happening today?


Alpha Fx Group.
Curtis Bks
Dcd Media
Foresight Solar
Gulf Keystone Petroleum
Mhp Reg S
Mpac Group Plc
Pphe Hotel

Albion En. Vct
Foresight 4
Invesco Asia
Jlen Env
Ninety One Plc
Value And Inc

UK economic announcements
(09:30) PMI Services

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Industrial Production (GER)
(08:55) PMI Composite (GER)
(08:56) PMI Services (GER)
(09:00) PMI Services (EU)
(09:00) PMI Composite (EU)
(10:00) Retail Sales (EU)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Balance of Trade (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(14:45) PMI Composite (US)
(14:45) PMI Services (US)
(15:00) ISM Prices Paid (US)
(15:00) ISM Services (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

The most expensive item ever sold on eBay was the $168,000,000 Giga Yacht, bought by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
International Trade (including Topical Questions)           
Business Statement – Business Questions to the Leader of the House – Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg
Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill: Consideration in Committee and Remaining Stages

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Quality of the work carried out by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact in scrutinising the effectiveness and value for money of UK aid – Baroness Sheehan          
Increasing the rate of tree planting – Lord Colgrain
Adding folic acid to flour – Lord Rooker  
Publication of the scientific advice which informs decisions to lift restrictions put in place to address COVID-19 in specific local areas – Baroness Thornton
Orders and regulations
Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 – Lord Bethell
Representation of the People (Electoral Registers Publication Date) Regulations 2020 – Lord True
Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 – Lord Greenhalgh

Scottish Parliament 

Portfolio Questions
Communities and Local Government, Social Security and Older People, and Finance

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