Bill Gates says he pushed for Microsoft to buy Skype
Bill Gates was among those who pushed for Microsoft to take over the Internet calling and video chat service Skype -- which it did last week for $8.5 billion.
When asked on the BBC TV show Hardtalk whether it made sense for Microsoft, the titan of the tech industry that Gates co-founded, to pay more than $8 billion for a company that makes a largely free Web phone system that isn't currently turning a profit and was valued at about a third as much two years ago, Gates said absolutely.
"I was a strong proponent at the board level for the deal being done," said Gates, who serves as Microsoft's chairman. "I think it's a great, great deal for Skype. I think it's a great deal for Microsoft. The idea of videoconferencing is going to get so much better than it is today."
Skype, based in Luxembourg, is used by about 170 million people each month and is Microsoft's largest purchase to date.
In November 2009, the majority of Skype was purchased from then-owner EBay by a group of investment firms led by Silver Lake and Andreessen Horowitz, in a deal that valued the company at about $2.8 billion.
Gates also said in the BBC interview that the decision to buy Skype was one that had implications for the future of Microsoft.
"I'd be the first to say that there's several tech companies including Microsoft, including Apple, including Google, who're doing fascinating work and the importance of software, I think, is more evident to people than it's ever been," Gates said.
"It'll be fascinating to see how the brilliant ideas out of Microsoft research, coming together with Skype, what they can make of that.... It's a great purchase that a lot of innovation will come out of."
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Microsoft founder and Chairman Bill Gates at a press conference this month in Geneva. Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images