Earlier this morning, Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis settled their lawsuits with eBay and a syndicate of investors in return for a 14 percent stake in the company they founded. The lawsuits were complicating the spin-off of Skype from eBay because the Skype founders still controlled the service’s underlying peer-to-peer technology.
In an interview with me this morning, Marc Andreessen, one of the investors through his new fund Andreessen Horowitz, told me, “The deal was never held up. The money was in escrow and was going to close” even if the lawsuits weren’t settled. The transaction is on track to close later this quarter. The other investors are Silver Lake Partners and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Index Ventures and Mike Volpi are out of the deal. Josh Silverman will continue to be CEO.
Andreessen is glad that the lawsuits are settled and that the “Joltid IP is now owned by Skype,” but was prepared to litigate if it didn’t work out. He explains: “This was a completely known situation going into it. It was one of the reasons the deal was available, because of the situation. We assumed it would be a good idea to bring the founders on board and resolve all the issues, we are very pro-founder. There was some drama along the way, but we came out with everybody in the same boat rowing in the same direction.”
In addition to legal avenues, Skype also had the option to try to switch to a different technology, such as SIP-based Internet telephony. “Had this not happened,” says Andreessen, “there were various technological paths that could have been followed. Now that it is settled, it is not necessary to make any changes. The technology is scaling very well.”
Skype is on a $740 million revenue run-rate and boasts 521 million users worldwide. “Skype is gigantic and yet still a relatively small percentage of international call volume,” notes Andreesen. “This is, and ought to be, one of the most important companies on the Internet.”
Now that the deal drama is over, we’ll get to find out.