Online auction giant eBay has sold the Skype Internet telephony service to a group of private investors.
The move, however, will not resolve a licensing dispute which could still shut down the widely used VoIP service.
The sale of 65% of eBay’s stakeholding brings to an end what eBay itself concedes was an unhappy commercial relationship.
“Skype is a strong standalone business, but it does not have synergies with our e-commerce and online payments businesses,” said eBay Inc. President and CEO John Donahoe. “As a separate company, we believe that Skype will have the focus required to compete effectively in online voice and video communications and accelerate its growth momentum.”
The buyer is an investor group led by Silver Lake and includes Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Investment Board. eBay is expected to receive approximately $1.9 billion in cash upon the completion of the sale.
EBay was planning to list Skype on the stock exchange next year, but a company called Joltid Ltd, which owns Skype’s software patent, is trying to terminate the licence agreement between the two parties.
Joltid has alleged that Skype should not possess, use or modify certain software source code and that it has breached the licensing agreement by disclosing this code in certain patent cases before the US courts.
In response, Skype has asked the English High Court to rule Joltid’s action invalid. The case is scheduled for June 2010.
EBay stated in its quarterly report that if it lost the case, and alternative software could not be found, Skype might have to be shut down.