Skype is certainly a major symbol for the IP communications market and although it plays in a niche in the market – consumer VoIP/Video, it is now a household name and having it entangled in legal limbo does it or the industry no good. You may remember that the company was in the process of possibly going IPO and then eBay decided to sell it. But there was a sticking point consisting of Skype’s p2p technology not being theirs and the original founders, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström playing hardball to cease Skype from working until they got paid what they believe they were owed.
Thankfully the companies settled and as a result eBay announced that the investor group led by Silver Lake, which had previously entered into a definitive agreement to acquire a majority stake in Skype from the company, has reached a settlement agreement with Joltid Limited and Joost N.V. that gives Skype ownership over all software previously licensed from Joltid and ends all litigation currently pending against the investor group and eBay at the closing of the acquisition.
As part of the settlement agreement, Joltid and Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis will join the investor group, contributing Joltid software and making a significant capital investment in exchange for a 14 percent stake in Skype. As a result, Silver Lake and other investors including Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), will together hold 56 percent of Skype and eBay will retain 30 percent. As previously announced, eBay will receive approximately $1.9 billion in cash upon the completion of the sale and a note from the buyer in the principal amount of $125 million. The deal, which values Skype at $2.75 billion and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2009.
I agree with Skype investor and Netscape founder and Ning co-founder Marc Andresen that Skype is one of the most important companies on the Internet.
Now let’s see what they can do with this company which has massive potential to keep changing communications and highlighting how IP can disrupt an industry and shake it to its core. One area of exploration will hopefully be deep integration between Ning and Skype allowing the social network building service to leverage real-time communications more effectively. How much stickier will online communities be when participants can see each other and speak immediately. Does a Ning/Skype combination become the largest real-time directory in the world?
Now I really can’t wait to hear Skype’s Chief Strategy Officer Christopher Dean speak in a few months at ITEXPO in Miami.