Report: eBay has deal to sell Skype

eBay is expected to announce Tuesday that it has reached a deal to sell its Internet telephone service, Skype, to a group of private investors, The New York Times reported late Monday.

The investment group will reportedly include Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital group launched in July by Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape and co-founder of Opsware, and Ben Horowitz, also co-founder of Opsware. A price was not revealed, but previous reports put eBay’s asking price for Skype at about $2 billion.

eBay representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Online auction giant eBay acquired Skype for $2.6 billion in 2005 with the plans to offer customers the ability to discuss their transactions in real-time. But over the course of the four years, eBay apparently found that its acquisition failed to provide the synergies it sought.

In 2007, eBay said it would take a $900 million so-called impairment write-down against the value of Skype, meaning that eBay had been forced to reassess the value of the Internet telephony company relative to its overall business. By recording a charge, the company essentially announced it had taken a loss on its original investment.

When eBay announced John Donahoe as its new CEO in 2008, Donahoe indicated that the company would take a year to evaluate the future of its online phone and video-conferencing service.

In April, eBay announced plans to spin off Skype, with an IPO in the first half of next year.

Meanwhile, reports surfaced that Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis were interested in repurchasing the company, with the aid of private equity firms KKR, Warburg Pincus, Elevation Partners, and Providence.

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