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Skype Fires 8 Executives: Pre-Acquisition Cleanup? Or Investor Payout?

SkypelogoOver the past couple of weeks, those of us watching Skype have become increasingly puzzled by the whack of terminations of senior executives at Skype. David Gurlé, a very public face of Skype, was perhaps the most prominent departure for those of us in the VoIP/telecom space, but the list includes a good number of prominent folks (source:Skype Journal):
  • David Gurlé, VP and General Manager of Skype for Business
  • Doug Bewsher, Chief Marketing Officer
  • Anne Gillespie, Global HR Director
  • Russ Shaw, VP and General Manager (focused on telecom)
  • Don Albert, VP and General Manager for Americas and Advertising
  • Christopher Dean, Head of Consumer Market Business Development
  • Ramu Sunkara, Executive VP for Carrier Relations for Qik
  • Allyson Campa, Senior VP for Marketing for Qik

Why? And why now?

Phil Wolff over at Skype Journal started writing about the issue last week and is out today with a longer post today, "Why did Skype fire 8 execs? Why them? Why now?", where he dives into potential reasons at great depth.

His primary suggestion is "Microsoft has better teams/talent in those departments" although he also has an interesting theory around a potential for buy-back of stock by investors.

Business Week also weighed in on the story with the suggestion that this is a move to save money on payouts to execs when the Microsoft acquisition occurs:

The timing of the dismissals means stock options will be worth less than if the executives stayed until the closing of the $8.5 billion deal, the people said.

However, I have to think that execs at this level would have the appropriate clauses in their contracts to still receive their payouts when an acquisition occurs.

UPDATE, June 21: Multiple sites, including TechCrunch and GigaOm, reached out to Skype investors and others and are stating clearly that the investors were not involved and that these cuts were made by Skype CEO Tony Bates.

I'm most inclined to agree with Phil's view on "realignment" before the acquistion.

The reality is that Skype staffed up to go through a public IPO.

They built their organization - and executive team - to create the kind of growth that would drive an organization to the point of a successful IPO. They staffed up to reach out into business and the enterprise. They staffed up to build out a global organization.

All of that no longer has the same urgency it once did now that the Microsoft acquisition of Skype has been approved. As Phil notes, Microsoft already has a ton of people in the other parts of the huge MS organization who could potentially cover the work of these execs.

Still, while these terminations may be an "expected" part of an acquisition, these were some very talented folks let go by Skype... I wish them all the best with whatever comes next for them.

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