Skyhook Wireless Sold While Patent Lawsuits Drag On

2/19/14Follow @curtwoodward

Skyhook Wireless was one of the Boston tech sector’s early showcase companies in the mobile era. But battles with big technology companies hampered that promise, and in late 2012 a new CEO arrived from one of the company’s investors to help right the ship.

Today, we’re seeing the results: Skyhook is being sold to TruePosition, a Berwyn, PA-based subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp. (NASDAQ: LMCA).

The price wasn’t disclosed, so we don’t know if investors are getting any premium on the roughly $17 million they poured into Skyhook. But the company will remain relatively independent and plans to continue growing, CEO Jeff Glass says.

“Skyhook grew significantly last year. We almost doubled the number of employees,” Glass told us via e-mail. “All employees, including me, will remain with Skyhook.”

The pairing seems a little odd at first glance. TruePosition provides location services to security and law-enforcement clients, ranging from pinpointing the location of 911 calls to helping battle “organized crime and terrorism,” according to its website.

Founded in 2003, Skyhook has been known for its commercial services, most famously its early inclusion in the iPhone. That was followed by Apple’s subsequent decision to drop the smaller tech provider and Google’s push to feature its own location services in phones running its Android operating system.

Mobile devices have remained at the company’s core throughout the turmoil; its customers include app developers and enterprise companies. Skyhook has also made a point of emphasizing its patent portfolio—and its two lawsuits against Google, over intellectual property and business practices.

We’ll have to see what the new owner does with those court cases, the oldest of which was filed in 2010. But the company’s intellectual property was clearly seen as an asset.

In the press release announcing the deal, TruePosition CEO Steve Stuut said Skyhook gives his company “another important tool in our technology and patent portfolio that perfectly complements our existing offerings… We anticipate that both companies will continue to operate in their respective markets.”

A sale of the company seemed likely after Glass was named CEO, since he came to the company from Skyhook investor Bain Capital Ventures and had a strong track record of exits. (Glass replaced founder Ted Morgan, who had remained on the board).

But Glass tamped down any speculation that he was a quick-flip CEO appointment, telling us at the time there was “absolutely no mandate at all to sell.” Last year, Glass reported that taking the focus away from the Google lawsuits and putting it back onto growing the business was paying off, with the potential to double Skyhook’s business.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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