Who’s Skype’s Daddy? Niklas Of Course

We reported about yet-another-tremor at Skype, as Henry Gomez replaced Alex Kazim. (Official press release is here.) I had pointed out that there was more to the story than meets the eye.

Despite all the happy shiny talk, there has been a lot of tension between eBay and Skype-people. Many from Skype have left, or have been nudged out. The business strategy shifted from working with partners (business development) to a more marketing-oriented strategy. The conflict has been on a slow simmer for a while. The recent purge, however, brought out the hostilities into the open. Many of these moves were systematically eroding the spirits of the remaining Skypers.

On top of that, these changes have had a detrimental effect on Skype meeting its targets, the ones that impacted the original founders’ earn outs. Saving their company and legacy might be part of it as well.

“One year ago when we made the deal, the plan was to build a great company and that is still the number on job for me,” Niklas Zennström, co-founder of the company told me in a chat during the Web 2.0 conference. “As long as I feel I have lot to give to Skype, I am going to continue and do it. I am not sure, you will see me as the CEO of Skype in 20 years, but I have a three year horizon.” He wasn’t kidding!

This was the backdrop that lead to the Gomez-Kazim shuffle. However, many eBay people are being defanged (in a manner of speaking), and Niklas Zennström is back running the ship.

In his new role, Gomez will serve as an advisor to Zennstrom and the principal liaison with eBay and PayPal.

Think of it as a revolution that failed, and the original monarch is back in power. Being long time Skype watchers, we think it is high time Niklas did his Z-thing!

That’s the story we have heard. On the Share.Skype blog, however, there is a more sanitized version of this drama.

The big news here is that Niklas will continue to run the company according to his vision with the rest of his original core team that started Skype more than three years ago. eBay brought some people over for a while and some senior eBayers like Henry continue to be in key positions, although acting more as advisors now instead of daily execution.

I’ve had the privilege to work with many of Skype’s friends from eBay and I can say they are very fine people who understand and love Skype and want to help us succeed. But now Niklas and his team decided that they have their own ideas about how to deliver the results, building upon the past heritage and the pretty stellar track record of Skype. And eBay lets them do just that.