Jeff Skoll (Jeffrey Skoll) Order of Canada (born January 16, 1965) is a Canadian born engineer and internet entrepreneur who lives in Los Angeles, California. With an estimated net worth of $US 3.2 billion (as of March 2011), Skoll was ranked by Forbes as the 7th wealthiest Canadian and 347th in the world.
He was the first employee and also first president of internet auction firm eBay, and used the wealth this gave him to become a philanthropist and to found the independent movie production company Participant Media.
Jeff Skoll was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada into a Jewish family, his mother a teacher and his father a chemical company owner who sold industrial chemicals. The family settled in Toronto in the late seventies.
When Jeff Skoll was fourteen his father was diagnosed with cancer which prompted him to discuss with his son how much he regretted not having had the time to do everything he had planned in life. A keen reader, Skoll was influenced by authors such as Aldous Huxley and Ayn Rand and intended to become an author writing motivational books and books on tackling the world’s problems.
He graduated with a BASc with honors in 1987 from the University of Toronto’s electrical engineering program. While an undergraduate student, he co-edited the engineering students’ satirical newspaper The Toike Oike. He paid his way through college by pumping gas in North York, Ontario. After graduating he backpacked around the world for several months before returning and founding two businesses in Toronto: Skoll Engineering, an information technology consulting firm and Micros on the Move Ltd., a computer rental firm.
He left Canada in 1993 to study a Masters of Business Administration at Stanford Business School, graduating in 1995. After Stanford he went to work at Knight Ridder where he was working on internet projects for the publishing company.
In 1996 Skoll met eBay’s founder Pierre Omidyar who hired him as the company’s first president and first full-time employee. While eBay was already profitable at the time Skoll joined, he wrote the business plan that eBay followed from its emergence as a start-up to a great success. He remained President until the arrival of Meg Whitman in January 1998 when he became Vice President, Strategic Planning and Analysis until back problems necessitated his departure from full-time employment at the company. In 1998, he championed the creation of the eBay Foundation which was allocated pre-IPO stock now worth $32 million. Once eBay’s second largest stockholder, behind Omidyar, he subsequently cashed out a portion of his company holdings, yielding him around $2 billion.
Skoll owns a Tesla Roadster from Tesla Motors, a battery electric sportscar with a 250-mile range, the third Tesla off the line P2/VINF003. He is also an investor in the company.
In 2011, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada “for his generous commitment to social causes and for his innovative practice of philanthropy”.