Marc Andreessen, board director of eBay and co-founder of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, today defended what he described as “false and misleading” accusations over his involvement with Skype and companies that compete with eBay.
Carl Icahn, who owns a small percentage of eBay shares, has published a number of open letters (1/2/3/4/5) for company stockholders lambasting Andreessen and board member Scott Cook. He accuses Andreessen, along with other investors, of derailing a planned Skype IPO by purchasing a 65 percent stake for $1.9 billion in 2009.
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Icahn argues that Andreessen was placing his own interests ahead of shareholders, which paid dividends when Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5 billion in 2011. As such, he wants eBay and PayPal to be separated.
In a statement, Andreessen said he was upfront about any personal interest he had in the 2009 deal and was not involved in any discussions, negotiations or decisions. “I was uninvolved in eBay’s decision to spin-off Skype and in eBay’s decision to choose to partner with the Silver Lake syndicate,” he added.
The entrepreneur also maintained that as part of an investor group featuring Silver Lake, Index Ventures and the Canada Pension Plan, Andreessen Horowitz only owned 3 percent of Skype after 2009. eBay owned 30 percent, meanwhile, which meant it had greater influence over the Microsoft acquisition.
“The Skype transaction received a high degree of public scrutiny when it happened,” he said. “All of the facts around my role in the Skype transaction were fully public at that time; eBay has a very sophisticated body of shareholders; and if any of them saw any problem with my conduct around the Skype transaction, I am confident that they would have brought it up by 2012.”
Icahn responded today with a new letter pointing to aspects of the two deals that he claims are “indisputable”. These include the consideration of an IPO for Skype, which then didn’t happen, the amount the investor group paid for the controlling stake and the return Andreessen Horowitz received from the Microsoft buyout in 2011.
He then puts forward a series of questions for Andreessen, which asks whether he knew Microsoft was interested in Skype back in 2009 and whether he disclosed this information to eBay’s board of directions. Icahn suggests that Andreessen may have signed a confidentiality agreement that would have prevented him from talking about Microsoft’s interest to eBay’s board – but that this would have been “a breach of duty in itself.”
He is now requesting an inspection of eBay’s books and records under Delaware law. “We will attempt through our examination of these books and records to answer the above questions for ALL stockholders of eBay,” he said.
Since both remarks were published, eBay has released a fresh statement of its own called ‘the truth about Skype’. It covers the reason why eBay divested in Skype and reiterates that it considered an IPO as part of an “exhaustive process”. In a section titled ‘Icahn v. Reality’, eBay then refutes that the deal in 2009 preempted a planned IPO or that it “gave away $4.5 billion to a board member (Andreessen).”