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PayPal's Retail Chief Don Kingsborough Exits 'A Little Frustrated'

"I think we didn't stay on strategy completely and therefore we didn't accomplish as much as we should have," he said.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Don Kingsborough, the PayPal executive who spearheaded the online payment giant’s move into the physical retail world, has left the company, sources told Re/code and Kingsborough confirmed in a phone call Tuesday night. And he admits the company didn’t accomplish as much as it should have in its attempt to make PayPal a popular payment option in brick-and-mortar shops.

“I think we were able to move the needle, but I have to say I leave a little frustrated in that I wish we as an executive team would have done more,” he said.


Kingsborough officially left PayPal in January, but said he had decided he wanted to make the change in the summer before agreeing to stay on until the company had hired a new president to replace outgoing boss David Marcus.

His official departure came a few weeks before eBay began to execute a large round of layoffs, but Kingsborough said the timing was coincidental.

“I’m an entrepreneur,” Kingsborough said, “but I’ve been spending a lot of my time as a big company executive and really feel as though what feels like home is being entrepreneurial.”

He said he serves on a few boards of directors and is entertaining other opportunities.

Kingsborough joined PayPal in 2011 after a long career that saw him hold C-level positions at Atari and prepaid card company Blackhawk Network and create the toy company that made the Teddy Ruxpin bear a hit in the 1980s. At PayPal, Kingsborough held an important role focused on introducing PayPal as a payment option in the brick-and-mortar world, where the vast majority of retail transactions still occur.

Things did not go as planned. While Kingsborough landed some big deals for the company, it’s not clear that PayPal is any more relevant to brick-and-mortar shoppers today than it was when he began. Over the years, Kingsborough inked deals to have PayPal accepted at Home Depot stores and another that paved the way for shoppers to be able to pay with their PayPal accounts wherever Discover cards are accepted. But both initiatives fizzled out and are rarely talked about today. The same goes for some app-based payments products that launched under Kingsborough’s watch.

Of the Discover deal, Kingsborough said, “It could have had a bigger impact and should have had a bigger impact.”

“I don’t think it was a consumer issue,” he added. “It was more of an execution issue.”

He declined to go into more detail, but stressed that he was leaving on good terms with PayPal and eBay executives and enjoyed working with them.

I then asked Kingsborough what he thought of those people who say that it’s hard to find a PayPal initiative that has been a big success in the world of brick-and-mortar retail. He didn’t exactly disagree.

“I think we didn’t stay on strategy completely and therefore we didn’t accomplish as much as we should have,” he said. “We just didn’t stay focused on the things that would make a difference … on distribution and on a clear method to take people who shopped online and bring them into stores.”

Kingsborough’s departure, coupled with some layoffs that targeted PayPal employees working on in-store projects, raise questions about how aggressively PayPal will continue to pursue retail initiatives. On one hand, many industry execs believe that PayPal needs to create some successful retail products to secure future success. On the other hand, there is not much on the company’s resume that would make you think such successes are likely.

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