Skype, the internet telephony company, has sacked more than half a dozen of its most senior executives, in a boardroom clear-out ahead of its takeover by Microsoft.
The number and timing of the departures was the talk of the tech industry yesterday, with analysts claiming that Skype and Microsoft stood to gain by ousting senior executives now, before their stock options got revalued at the higher takeover price.
The two companies declined to comment on the timing of the departures, but a Skype spokesman said: "Skype, like any other pragmatic organisation, constantly assesses its team structure to deliver its users the best products. As part of a recent internal shift Skype has made some management changes."
Among the executives who have left are David Gurlé, a vice-president in charge of selling Skype to corporate customers, and Don Albert, the company's advertising boss. The departures were being examined for clues as to how Microsoft might run Skype when its $8.5bn takeover is completed later this year. When the deal was announced, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, said Skype would operate as a standalone division under its current boss, Tony Bates.
Several of the executives let go in recent weeks operate areas of the business where there is considerable overlap with Microsoft. The other names on the list of departures – originally assembled by the Skype Journal blog and by Bloomberg News – are Christopher Dean and Russ Shaw, both vice-presidents; the chief marketing officer, Doug Bewsher; and Anne Gillespie, the head of human resources. Ramu Sunkara and Allyson Campa, who joined Skype earlier this year when it acquired Qik, a mobile video sharing software company, were also let go.
The timing of the departures means that the value of their stock options will be less than if they had stayed until the Microsoft deal closed, although it is not known if the final terms of their dismissals have been negotiated.
Skype is Microsoft's largest ever acquisition. It hopes to push Skype as a service for businesses, perhaps by integrating it with its Office products.