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PayPal's CEO is talking up the company's business handling payments on websites other than eBay. Where have I heard this before? Oh yes: In April 2002, when I had coffee with Peter Thiel, then the CEO of PayPal as an independent concern. He talked up the prospects of growing PayPal's business on other websites. He agreed to sell PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion that July, and left three months later. And then I heard the story again, and again, and again, as eBay pushed a number of forgettable executives through the revolving door of PayPal's executive suite.The swift executive rotation was a deliberate strategy of former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, a management consultant by training. She called it "repotting" — moving executives around through different parts of the business. While it may have helped her charges' careers, it did nothing for PayPal. The latest potted plant to occupy PayPal's C-suite, Scott Thompson, is bragging to investors that PayPal will soon derive more than half its revenues from websites other than eBay. A good thing, considering how growth in eBay's core auction business is grinding to a halt. Thiel saw this as a problem back in 2002. eBay was growing fast at the time, but PayPal's investors — the company was briefly publicly traded before eBay bought it — were worried about its dependence on another company. After eBay bought PayPal, executives spent years grinding away at "integration" — even though PayPal, as an independent concern, had managed to neatly fit its payment service with eBay's auctions, without much help from eBay — in fact, with eBay actively trying to replace it with its own BillPoint payment service. In the years since, what has eBay done with PayPal? It's recycled ideas from the Thiel era, and tried to tout them as "innovatons." It has swollen the size of the PayPal unit to some 7,000 employees. ("What do they do?" a former PayPal executive asked me.) And it has leaned on PayPal to mask slow growth in its core business. How much would PayPal be worth now on its own, without eBay's bloated management? Would and Google even be trying to challenge it in the payments business? Perhaps it's a question that shouldn't remain abstract. eBay tried to buy PayPal several times; every time eBay returned to the bargaining table, PayPal's price went up. It finally took the workings of a liquid market to determine PayPal's worth; after PayPal's IPO, eBay had to pay a fair price for the payments company. Yes, it's time for another PayPal IPO. Too bad Peter Thiel isn't available to run the company — he's making far more money on his hedge fund than he ever did from PayPal. (Photo by David Orban)