eBay's Skype sale gets go-ahead with settlement

New deal brings in Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis as investors in a roughly $2 billion sale of the Internet telephony pioneer.

Online auction giant eBay announced Friday that its sale of a controlling interest in its Skype unit will proceed, following the settlement of litigation over the proposed transaction.

The settlement restructures the deal with an investor group led by Silver Lake and puts an end to a dispute with software maker Joltid over the licensing of software that underlies Skype's Internet telephony service.

In addition, the settlement brings Skype and Joltid founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, into the investor group. The duo will take a 14 percent stake in Skype in exchange for contributing Joltid software and a "significant capital investment."

Silver Lake and other investors will now hold 56 percent of Skype, and eBay will retain 30 percent. Those other investors include the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz --started by Marc Andreessen, the man behind the early Web browser Netscape--and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Venture capital firm Index Ventures, which had been embroiled in the legal action, has withdrawn from participation in the investor group.

As in the initial agreement, eBay will receive approximately $1.9 billion in cash when the sale is completed, along with a note from the buyer in the principal amount of $125 million.

The deal, which eBay says puts Skype's value at $2.75 billion, is expected to close during the current quarter.

Under the settlement agreement, which involves the Silver Lake investor group, Joltid, and online video company Joost, Skype will have ownership over all software previously licensed from Joltid. All related litigation now pending against the investor group and eBay will cease at the closing of the acquisition.

Zennström and Friis had sold Skype to eBay for $2.6 billion in 2006, but they had also retained the rights to Skype's peer-to-peer technology via Joltid, a separate company that they had also founded. In its lawsuit filed in September of this year, Joltid raised charges of copyright infringement, alleging that Skype had acquired unauthorized versions of the source code, made unauthorized modifications, and disclosed the software to third persons.

Also in September, Joost--yet another company started by Zennström and Friis-- filed a lawsuit against former Joost CEO Mike Volpi , who two months earlier had become partner at Index Ventures, which also was named in the lawsuit. Joost claimed that Volpi, who had done a stint on Skype's board of directors, had used confidential information as part of Index Ventures' participation in the Silver Lake-led effort to buy a majority share in Skype.

In the third quarter, Skype contributed $185 million in revenue to eBay, up nearly 30 percent from the year-earlier period. It has more than 520 million registered users.

Update at 8:10 a.m. PST: More details of the settlement have been added.

About the author

Jonathan Skillings is managing editor of CNET News, based in the Boston bureau. He's been with CNET since 2000, after a decade in tech journalism at the IDG News Service, PC Week, and an AS/400 magazine. He's also been a soldier and a schoolteacher, and will always be a die-hard fan of jazz, the brassier the better.

 

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