EBay plans to announce on Tuesday a deal to sell its Skype Internet calling division to a group of private investors, according to two people briefed on the company’s plans.
The investment group is likely to include Andreessen Horowitz, a new venture capital firm headed by the Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, these people said. One of the people added that Index Ventures, a London-based venture capital firm that was an early investor in Skype, and the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners were also involved. A price was not disclosed, but eBay has said it wants around $2 billion for Skype, which is on track to take in more than $600 million in revenue this year.
Alan Marks, an eBay spokesman, would not comment on the matter. Mr. Andreessen is on eBay’s board of directors.
EBay acquired Skype in 2005, outbidding Google and Yahoo in a deal that has come to be viewed as one of the worst technology transactions of the decade. Including payouts to Skype’s founders, the price ultimately topped $3.1 billion. EBay later wrote down $900 million of Skype’s value, after it became clear that the company was not a good fit with eBay’s main e-commerce and online payment businesses.
Although eBay has said it was planning an initial public offering for the Skype division next year, it has been talking to various companies and investment groups interested in buying the service. Skype’s founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, approached private equity firms earlier this year in hopes of making a bid for their old company. But they did not meet eBay’s price, and separately the parties are fighting in a British court over ownership of the core peer-to-peer technology behind the Skype service. The case is due to be heard by a British court next year.
Last month, eBay also negotiated with Google over buying Skype, according to a person briefed on those discussions. But Google ultimately walked away from a potential deal, fearing that continued litigation could leave it vulnerable to immense damages.
Google also worried that owning Skype might alienate wireless carriers, which offer their customers phones running Google’s Android software, the person said.
It is not clear if Skype’s founders are involved in the new deal and have agreed to relinquish their legal claim.