Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Parsing the Legal Tantrums of Zennström and Friis

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Is it just me or is it completely ironic that a pair of European entrepreneurs kept out of the United States due to tantrum lawsuits from the music industry are stamping their own legal feet like two ill-tempered toddlers of late?

That would be Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, who today filed yet another lawsuit in their seemingly never-ending quest to win in court what they couldn’t in business dealmaking.

Today, via a new lawsuit, they are following through on their recent attempt to smear former Joost CEO Michelangelo Volpi.

Zennström and Friis co-founded Joost, you see, and last week were part of dumping him as a director and as its chairman, a job Volpi had retained when he left his top job at Joost to join Index Ventures in July.

Not satisfied with that, Joost also said then in an astonishing statement: “The company and its board of directors is conducting an investigation into Mr. Volpi’s actions during his tenure as CEO and as chairman.”

Of course, it is all part of the pair being on the very-sore-losing side of the $2 billion deal to buy Skype from eBay (EBAY).

Zennström and Friis got very rich selling the Internet telephony service to eBay in 2005.

This year, they turned around and tried to buy it back, hooking up with a group of private-equity investors.

Both Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) also considered bids, and dropped out for various reasons.

And so did Volpi, in one of his first deals at Index–and the London-based venture firm was one of the smaller players on the winning side of the deal to buy Skype, putting up $75 million.

To complicate things further, Zennström and Friis also own a company called Joltid, which has licensed key technology for Skype to eBay.

Joltid and eBay have already been fighting in a British court over that agreement, bickering back and forth about whether eBay violated the terms of that deal or not.

Earlier this week, via Joltid, Zennström and Friis also filed suit again against Skype and its owner, eBay, for copyright violations in the U.S.

For good measure, they also added the winning buyout group, including Silver Lake Partners, Index, Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Did I forget to mention that lawsuit-happy Zennström and Friis also sued the investment banker who represented them in the original Skype sale?

So, it comes as no shock that both Joltid and Joost–aka Zennström and Friis–announced yesterday that they are suing Volpi personally, as well as Index again.

They allege tech skullduggery on Volpi’s part, in which he used confidential information he learned at Joost to thwart Joltid.

Evidence and proof–on first blush–seem to have little to do with this and ire at losing a deal and trying to gain leverage for a settlement seem to be the true game.

And what their next legal move might be is anybody’s guess.

But you get the idea here, don’t you?


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle