Atlanta-based ICE makes bid to buy eBay - report

Intercontinental Exchange has made a bid to purchase eBay, according to a media report, as the Atlanta company reportedly looks to make a huge splash in the world of online retailing.

ICE, which owns the New York Stock Exchange, made an unsolicited offer of more than $30 billion for the online auction company, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources. The publication cautioned ICE and eBay are not in formal talks and there is no guarantee they will agree to a deal.

A spokesman for ICE and an eBay spokeswoman declined to comment.

Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is married to the chairman and CEO of ICE, Jeff Sprecher. Loeffler, who's also co-owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream, last year was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Johnny Isakson. Last week, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins said he would challenge Loeffler for the Senate seat in November's election.

ICE appears to have pounced on eBay when the San Jose, Calif., company is in a weakened position, as it recently disappointed Wall Street analysts with its financial results. Starboard Value Fund, an investor, on Tuesday urged the company to sell its classified-business division to improve its stock price, Reuters reported.

In a Tuesday news release, eBay said “we will review Starboard’s letter and perspectives as we continue to rigorously review our business and opportunities for growth and value creation.”

It’s not the first time ICE has contacted eBay about an acquisition, the Journal reported.

In addition to the New York Stock Exchange, ICE also operates online marketplaces for commodities trading.

Ebay itself recently made an acquisition involving Atlanta-based Cox Automotive, agreeing in December to buy two automotive technology businesses in Australia. Cox Automotive is owned by Cox Enterprises, which also owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.