By Sam Forgione
NEW YORK, March 3 (Reuters) - Activist investor Carl Icahn is demanding a review of eBay Inc’s records on its sale of Skype, reiterating his view that eBay board member Marc Andreessen had conflicts of interest, while eBay called Icahn’s criticisms “false and misleading.”
In an open letter to shareholders on Monday, Icahn said “Mr. Andreessen’s conflicts are clear and insurmountable.” He also said his firm is “in the process of demanding an inspection of eBay’s relevant books and records pursuant to our right as stockholders under Delaware law.”
Icahn, who has a 2.15 percent stake in eBay and has called for the e-commerce giant to spin off its fast-growing PayPal payments business, has publicly feuded with the company in recent weeks over eBay’s 2009 sale of a majority stake in Skype to private investors.
Icahn said that Andreessen, whose venture capital firm was one of the investors in the group to which eBay sold its majority stake in Skype for $1.9 billion, subsequently benefited from the group’s sale of the online phone service in 2011 to Microsoft for $8.5 billion.
Icahn said in a letter on Feb. 24 that, as a board member, Andreessen had been exposed to nonpublic eBay information while investing in and advising five eBay competitors.
“In response to false and misleading information being disseminated by an activist shareholder about the company’s 2009 divestiture of Skype, eBay Inc today reiterated previously disclosed public information,” eBay said Monday in a statement in which it summarized the process of the sale.
Andreessen said that he had disqualified himself from participating in the eBay board’s divestiture of Skype, and said, “I do not serve on the board of any company with any significant competitive overlap with eBay.”
Icahn, who is known for taking large stakes in companies and pushing for management change, was not immediately available for comment.
Icahn is chairman of investment firm Icahn Enterprises L.P. . Icahn Enterprises reported fourth-quarter revenue of $4.9 billion and $20.7 billion in revenues for all of 2013, marking increases from the previous periods.
Icahn’s investment firm earned a 31 percent return last year, he said in another letter to shareholders on Monday. That more than quadrupled the performance of the average hedge fund, which rose roughly 6.5 percent, according to data from Hedge Fund Research.