Microsoft has announced that it is to shut down Skype’s London offices.
In a statement, the company said that it has “made the decision to unify some engineering positions, potentially putting at risk a number of globally focused Skype and Yammer roles”. The company will be entering into a consultation process to help those affected by the redundancies.
The statement continued: “We are deeply committed to doing everything we can to help those impacted through the process."
This is an alarming step for British tech in a post-Brexit world, as the industry is desperate to show that the UK can remain a lucrative destination. While this is not the first UK owned tech company to see foreign involvement post-Brexit, it is the first to see its UK base actually be shut down.
The online communications service was originally founded in London in 2003 and was acquired by Microsoft in 2011 for $8.5bn. It currently employs close to 400 people in the city and the majority those jobs are at risk as a part of the closure.
Russ Shaw, founder of industry group Tech London Advocates and former vice-president of Skype EMEA told the Financial Times: “This is disappointing. Skype is one of Europe’s iconic technology businesses and a genuine ‘unicorn’ with an amazing pedigree of innovation and talent."
“While London is working hard to build a strong base of world-class technology businesses, this decision is a step in the wrong direction.”
The Financial Times also cited an anonymous source who identified as a former Skype employee, who said that several Skype executives have been quietly departing over the past three years:
“I know it’s natural to integrate, but Skype is a shell of the company it once was,” the source said. “One of the things that was always a big issue for Microsoft was that big decisions at Skype would usually always be made in Europe, not in Redmond [Microsoft’s HQ]. Now, it’s a Redmond, Microsoft-led company rather than an independent Skype.”
There is currently no news as to where company’s new European base will be moved to.