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U.S. Okays Skype Deal While Skype Cuts Execs

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Microsoft's deal to purchase Internet phone service provider Skype has received official antitrust approval from the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), according to the Redmond, Wash. company.

That will let Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) $8.5 billion purchase -- the largest acquisition in the company's history -- proceed, at least in the U.S.

The U.S. approval was first announced in a tweet on Saturday by Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith.

"U.S. Dept. of Justice approves Microsoft's acquisition of Skype -- a key step in the global regulatory approval process," Smith's tweet said.

A Microsoft spokesperson said the company had no further comment.

Although the two parties were required to submit their request for the purchase to both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the DoJ, only one or the other of the agencies was needed for the sale to proceed, according to documents on the FTC's website.

Meanwhile, Skype has already started cutting staff, starting near the top in an apparent move to limit the value of stock options, according to Bloomberg News.

"Vice Presidents David Gurle, Christopher Dean, Russ Shaw and Don Albert were dismissed from the Luxembourg-based company, said the people, who requested anonymity because the departures aren't public. Chief Marketing Officer Doug Bewsher and Anne Gillespie, head of human resources, were also fired. Executives Ramu Sunkara and Allyson Campa, from the 2011 Qik purchase, were also let go," Bloomberg's article said.

"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," Bloomberg added.

Tony Bates, CEO of Skype will remain with the company and will become president of Microsoft's new Skype Division, reporting directly to CEO Steve Ballmer. At the deal's unveiling, Ballmer and Bates said they see a huge consumer opportunity, particularly in video and advertising, and also that they see synergies around business applications, particularly Microsoft's Lync unified communications server.

The deal, which was announced May 10, has already been approved by both companies' boards, and is expected to close within the current calendar year.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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