The rumours have been flying for a week or so that Skype was to be sold. Yesterday the rumour became fact, as eBay unloaded a 65% stake in Skype to a consortium of investors, including some of the original Skype investors like Index Ventures. eBay gets to keep a 35% stake in Skype, and gets out of what was arguably a bad marriage from the beginning. Skype, on a path to do a cool billion in sales next year, gets to be an independent entity once more.
So why now? Why not just wait it out until next year when the prospects of a Skype IPO might be better, and shoot for a public offering?
It’s all about risk mitigation. Skype’s IPO could have been torpedoed by any number of factors including a downturn in the market, the failure to resolve the JoltID licensing dispute with Skype co-founders Zennstrom and Kase, or even the remote possibility of a new competitor devaluing Skype. eBay’s management prudently took $2.1 billion off the table, but preserved their ability to participate in the upside of an IPO.
Should eBay shareholders be angry? Perhaps some will be. The more risk averse, however, are surely relieved.