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Cisco exec Tony Bates to fill CEO spot at Skype

Internet phone giant Skype has appointed former Cisco senior vice president Tony Bates as its new CEO, the company confirmed Monday.

The changeout at the top spot is one more indicator that the firm is getting closer to going public, a prospect which has had investors salivating on the sidelines since the company filed for an IPO in August.

“We are thrilled to bring on Tony Bates as Skype’s new CEO,” said Miles Flint, chairman of the company’s board of directors, in a statement. “His record of achievement and significant operational and management expertise, cultivated over a distinguished tenure at one of the world’s preeminent technology companies, presents a unique opportunity for Skype that we are enthusiastic to embrace.”

Cisco did not directly confirm Bates departure, but Chief Technology Officer Padmarsee Warrior excitedly tweeted this morning about her “expanded role” at the company after news surfaced she would take over Bates’ role as head of Cisco’s $20 billion Enterprise Group.

Bates is rumored to be heading to the former eBay spinoff’s Luxembourg headquarters within a matter of weeks.

Skype’s current CEO, Josh Silverman, a longtime eBay executive, said he would stay on to “ensure a smooth transition.” Chief financial officer Adrian Dillon will fill in the gap in the meantime.

Bates departure is a major coup for Skype, where he will bring a slew of experience and contacts in the currently thriving enterprise space. Bates had reportedly been responsible for as much as 70 percent of Cisco business, and oversaw more than 12,000 of the company’s employees.

Bates also currently holds nine patents and has served on the boards of a plethora of technology companies, including YouTube; online conference provider TokBox; BubbleMotion, a voice-based messaging and blogging service; and United Kingdom-based online video streaming and rental service LoveFilm.

He will now join fellow Cisco alumnus Jonathan Rosenberg, who left Bates’ division in November to become Skype’s chief technology executive. The company has already installed a whole suite of new executives, including general counsel and marketing head.

The challenges facing any new CEO at Skype are clear: how to make money on what has ostensibly been known as a free service—and how to leverage new partnerships with Facebook and business communications outfit Avaya into profitable waters as the fight over voice continues.

Despite the fact that paying customers currently make up a very small slice of Skype’s 124 million or so users, the firm has managed to get in the black, reporting $13 million in profit on $406 million in revenues through the first half of 2010.