So good old Meg Whitman just announced a $1.4 billion write-down on her ridiculous Skype acquisition, and everyone in the Valley is laughing their ass off — except for the people who are sitting on similar timebombs or those who have invested in other freetarded ventures expecting they’ll someday pay off big even though they don’t have any way to make money. I’ll let you all fill in the blanks on which companies those might be. Meanwhile suddenly everyone is rushing around to make sure you know that they were all very skeptical about the Ebay-Skype deal from the beginning and never thought it made sense blah blah blah. Just for a reality check I thought it might be fun to dig up some old comments from when the deal was first struck.
Legg Mason in Marketwatch (full story here.)
Legg Mason expressed optimism about a union between eBay and Skype, which it described as “by far the largest provider of VoIP in the world” …”We are fans of disruptive technology and believe that VoIP is the next business segment ripe for disintermediation. We are unable to comment as to the rumored $2 billion-$3 billion price tag for Skype, however, we note (as we have for some time) that we believe eBay’s management team to be the best in the sector, and that we would have comfort in their ability to allocate capital to investments/businesses with high ROI (return on capital) characteristics.
David Smith of Gartner in CNN/Money (see story here.)
“Skype has a lot of early adopters, and they have technology that works,” said David Smith, a vice president and analyst at information technology research firm Gartner. “For these bigger companies that want to get into (VoIP), it makes sense to look at them acquiring … the customer base and the brand, rather than develop the technology themselves.”
Robert Cringely, same article:
“Skype threatens existing, highly profitable franchises,” wrote technology columnist Robert Cringely in a column for PBS.org. “Skype absolutely takes money out of the pockets of existing telephone companies. And since the value of a telephone subscriber is generally a known quantity, the value of an active Skype customer can be at least guesstimated.”
To be fair, Cringeley did say the deal was “likely to be a mistake in the long run,” though he seemed to think the price was justified. See his original column here.
Steven Levy was glowing here. Money quote: “Instead of sitting on a maturing model of selling stuff online, eBay has the chance to be the leader in shaping this exciting technology’s path to ubiquity. The price was high, but who knows more about bidding than eBay?”
Ross Mayfield said the deal made sense because “markets are conversations,” according to the Cluetrain Manifesto which as we all know is always correct, because it is, you see, a manifesto. See here.
BusinessWeek guy called it “a gutsy move” and said “it’s clear that eBay views Skype, whose software lets people use their personal computers to make calls over the Internet, as a potential blockbuster business in itself.” See here.
The ever-reliable Motley Fool explained why the deal was a great one here.
Finally, like a breath of fresh air, the ever-sensible Nick Carr naturally got it right in a piece called “Communal Delusions.”
Nick does a good job of picking apart an article that appeared in Fortune praising the Ebay-Skype deal — an article that our interns, Iulia and Natasha, tell me they can’t find on the Internet but apparently is a howler.
Free fake iPhone with fake WiFi calling feature to anyone who can find the Fortune article and send in the link. (Photo: Burt Hammer, Hammer Agency.)