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Skype founders sue EBay

September 18, 2009 |  1:05 pm

Skype
Ed Ho, right, demonstrates the online telecommunications service Skype with friend Daren Tsui, on screen, at Ho's Palo Alto, Calif., home. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press.

The founders of Skype filed a lawsuit against EBay Inc. today, a step that could spoil EBay’s $2-billion deal to sell a controlling stake in the Internet phone company to a group of private investors.

The suit, filed in a Delaware court, was brought by Joltid Ltd. and Joost N.V., which are owned by Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis. The lawsuit contends that former Joost chief executive Michelangelo Volpi used confidential information to sell a 65% stake in Skype to a private equity consortium. The deal was announced by EBay about two weeks ago.

Volpi recently became a partner at Index Ventures Management S.A., one of the investors buying a majority stake in Skype. The lawsuit alleges that Volpi leaked Joost’s company secrets and accuses him of “civil conspiracy.” Volpi had a fiduciary duty to protect the information, the lawsuit charges, and not “use it for his own benefit.” Index Ventures is also listed as a defendant in the suit.

EBay bought Skype for $2.6 billion in 2005. It’s been reported that Zennstrom and Friis want to buy Skype back, but their bid has been unsuccessful.

Today's lawsuit is just the latest in an ongoing dispute between Skype's founders and EBay. Earlier this week, the founders sued the investors and EBay in U.S. District Court in Northern California, charging   copyright infringement.

-- W.J. Hennigan

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