How The Joltid Suit Is a Ploy to Buy Back Skype - Page 2

Joltid's Zennstrom and Friis earlier this year tried to buy back Skype but balked at what they believed was too high a price from eBay. eBay, which acquired Skype in 2005, has long been trying to sell the company. Though Skype sales rose 25 percent to $170 million in the second quarter this year, eBay took close to a $1 billion write-down on it in 2007.

While Joltid's initial suit named eBay the defendant as the proprietor of Skype, Joltid's new claim includes Silver Lake, eBay board member Marc Andreessen, who is also part of the investment group through Andreessen Horowitz, and former Skype board members Danny Rimer and Mike Volpi, among others.

Volpi was removed as chairman from Web TV firm Joost, which is also owned by Zennstrom and Friis, who have cultivated a reputation of being litigious. Bernstein's Lindsay said the lawsuit has been timed to maximize damage to eBay's deal with investors, but that the Joltid owners aren't looking to put Skype down for good:

""We doubt very much that the owners of Joltid are seeking to achieve a permanent shut-down of Skype - that would have no financial benefit to them- and so we discount the worst possible case. We think any settlement would amount to considerably less than the maximum possible scenario and if the judge does not grant an immediate injunction to shut down Skype we think eBay will very likely fight the case and could win without loss.""

eBay remains confident in its case. eBay spokesman John Pluhowski told eWEEK: "Their allegations and claims are without merit and are founded on fundamental legal and factual errors. "We remain on track to close the transaction in the fourth quarter of 2009."

Even so, the company is preparing for the worst by developing alternative VOIP software in case the U.K. court sides with Joltid and grants it an injunction preventing Skype from operating.

Lindsay said eBay is likely looking at moving Skype to a SIP protocol, or licensing an alternative VOIP technology, such as Google Voice or AOL's IM technology, which is voice-capable. "Success with any of these alternatives would likely undermine Joltid's case considerably and accelerate a settlement or a dismissal," he wrote.

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