Skype Deal Brings The Joost Guys Back Together... In Court?

eBay’s deal to sell Skype to a group of investors in a $2.75 billion deal gives the Internet phone company new corporate parents and gets eBay out of the telecom business.

But it also reunites three familiar faces, in what could potentially be an unpleasant situation: Skype’s founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, and Index Ventures partner Mike Volpi, who is one of Skype’s new investors.

Volpi, if you recall, recently left his job as CEO of Joost, the online video startup also founded by Friis and Zennstrom, and became a VC at Index Ventures. And Index just poured some of the $1.9 billion of cash into eBay’s pockets in exchange for a stake in the new Skype.

But one of Skype’s first big hurdles — and therefore Volpi’s — could be figuring out how to sort out a legal battle between eBay and a holding company that represents Friis and Zennstrom.

In June, Bloomberg reported that the legal struggle over a licensing deal for Skype’s underlying software — which the founders still owned a piece of — could delay eBay’s initial plans to spin Skype off as a public company, could whack its valuation, and could force Skype to shut down its phone service.

Today, we reached out to a number of parties — including representatives for eBay and the investor group — to find out if the sides had reached an agreement. We have not heard back from any of these representatives.

But a person familiar with the transaction suggests the legal conflict is not that big of a deal. This person says that the investor group looked into all of Skype’s issues — including legal issues — and did the deal anyway. (That’s why we said the reunion could potentially be unpleasant. If you know more, let us know, and we’ll update: [email protected])

This person also said that Skype’s founders were not involved in the new Skype investor group.

As far as the trio’s history goes, Volpi first met the Skype guys in 2002, according to a New York Times profile, “and was intrigued by the way Skype circumvented traditional phone companies.” Volpi then worked with Friis and Zennstrom at Skype, joining the company’s board in 2004 and leaving after eBay bought Skype in 2005 for $2.6 billion.

Then after Friis and Zennstrom started Joost, the company hired Volpi — a former rising star at Cisco — in the upswing of the Web video boom in the summer of 2007, a few months before Google paid $1.65 billion for YouTube.

The New York Times’ Brad Stone wrote in 2007: “Mr. Friis said that Mr. Volpi was the only candidate they considered to head their new company.” Friis said: “What you really want in these kinds of situations is someone you have had a good relationship with, who you’ve known for years, who you can trust and get along with.”

For all parties involved, let’s hope that good relationship still stands.

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