It’s not often that we get to watch the founder of one seminal digital age company (Craig Newmark of Craigslist) and the former chief executive of another (Meg Whitman of eBay) taking their licks on the stand in a courtroom. But that’s what we’ll see starting today, when an ownership dispute between the two companies begins in Delaware Chancery Court before Chancellor William Chandler. Whitman is scheduled to appear as the first witness at the trial, which is being carried live by Courtroom View Network. This one’s a biggie, folks.

At issue is whether the small, privately held Craigslist acted improperly when it reduced eBay’s ownership stake in the company from more than 28 percent to less than 25 percent. In eBay’s April 2008 complaint (pdf), its lawyers at Cooley Godward Kronish claimed that Newmark and Craigslist CEO James Buckmaster conducted secret maneuvers that diluted eBay’s stake to below the 25 percent threshold that gave eBay a seat on Craigslist’s small board of directors. (How small? Really, really small: Right now, the board consists of just Newmark and Buckmaster).

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