Carl Icahn, March 5 2014, on CNBC: “Don’t tell me that Microsoft suddenly had an epiphany … and decided only a year and a half later, ‘Wow, we’re only going to pay $6 billion more.’” (1)
Carl Icahn has repeatedly alleged both in interviews (1) and in letters (3) that I had some kind of secret information that Microsoft wanted to or intended to buy Skype, and that I improperly usurped that information for my own benefit against the interests of eBay shareholders.
I categorically deny these allegations.
Mr. Icahn is making up a fake conspiracy theory out of thin air.
Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2014:
Microsoft Passed on Skype Before Silver Lake’s Deal
Before a group of investors bought a majority of Skype from eBay, Microsoft had discussions about acquiring Skype but passed on bidding over concerns about lawsuits Skype was facing from its founders, according to a court document and people familiar with the matter.
Microsoft’s interest, while not strong enough for it to bid, could dispel some concerns activist investor Carl Icahn has raised about the Skype deal. …
Mr. Icahn, who owns about 2.2% of eBay, has alleged eBay director Marc Andreessen didn’t fulfill his duty to eBay shareholders when he participated in the group buying 70% of Skype in 2009. Mr. Andreessen and eBay have said Mr. Andreessen recused himself from the discussions and added his firm only had a small position in the buyout group.
Mr. Andreessen’s venture-capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, invested $50 million into the deal that was led by Silver Lake and other investment firms. The 2009 deal valued Skype at $2.75 billion and left eBay with a 30% stake.
Less than two years later, after settling the lawsuits that had spooked Microsoft and others, Silver Lake’s group sold Skype to Microsoft for $8.5 billion.
Mr. Icahn says the dramatic increase in price, in less than two years, shows eBay’s board, and CEO John Donahoe, sold it on the cheap to a group that included a board member. Mr. Icahn has also questioned whether Mr. Andreessen shared with the eBay board his impression that Microsoft would be a potential bidder.
The fact that Microsoft looked but walked away from bidding in 2009 shows that eBay was aware of Microsoft’s potential interest.
Mr. Donahoe also said Wednesday morning on Fox Business that eBay “looked at other bidders” and there were, in the end, two bidders and that eBay selected the highest offer.
Amid the 2009 sales process, the founders of Skype and eBay were embroiled in a messy lawsuit about whether eBay had improperly used the technology that Skype ran on. When eBay purchased Skype, the founders retained ownership of the technology.
After the Silver Lake deal, Skype’s founders filed more lawsuits seeking to stop the deal, including one that said Microsoft had declined to bid on Skype after concerns about the patents. …
Between the first sale of Skype and Microsoft’s purchase, the lawsuits were settled and the founders were given a stake in Skype. Because of soured relationships, such a settlement would have been far harder for eBay, the people said …
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