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Can Meg Whitman jump-start her post-eBay career at Zipcar?

The past years haven’t necessarily been kind to former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman. But has a chance to turn things around after joining the board of directors for car-sharing company Zipcar today.

Whitman was able to generate billions of dollars in value for eBay when she became the company’s chief executive in 1998, taking the company from $4.6 million to nearly $8 billion in revenue. But she started to lose her touch as the company began to lose to the likes of online retailer Amazon.com.

Whitman left eBay in 2008 and was replaced by current chief executive John Donahoe. eBay has since shifted its focus from online auctions and sales to its transaction service PayPal. Since then, eBay has had an about face, with revenue growing 5 percent in the fourth quarter last year after revenue from PayPal rose about 22 percent when compared to the same quarter a year earlier.

Whitman also tried running for governor of California, spending more than $100 million of her own money on campaigns. That money and the tech pedigree didn’t pay off, and she went down in flames, losing to Democrat candidate Jerry Brown. Whitman seemed to have lost her touch and couldn’t get a win.

She’ll get a second (or third) chance now after joining Zipcar’s board just before it goes public. Zipcar filed to go public in June last year to raise $75 million. That funding will be used to pay off its debt and spin up its operations in other cities. The company also raised $21 million from Meritech capital, which should help clean up its balance sheet and make the stock more appealing to public investors.

The service is available in most cities, where cars are strewn across the city in special parking spots. Users sign up for a subscription, and then schedule a time and a car to pick up. They receive a card that activates the car and are free to drive it during their scheduled time.

The whole Zipcar team seems pretty excited about the move — despite some of the extra baggage Whitman is carrying around. Whitman likened Zipcar to eBay, saying that eBay “transformed how people think about retail by allowing consumers to buy and sell goods through online auctions.” That was a good ride — but only for a while.

[Photo: tracie7779]