Blatantly stealing the headline from the Linden Lab website.
Short version. The parent of Second Life and Tilia, Linden Research Inc., will be bought by two investors, Randy Waterfield and Brad Oberwager.
Please read the original publication and let it sink in.
Reading Inara's blog it looks like these two are Good (tm) people.
So, what will they do?
First lets see what it will mean to us, the residents of Second Life?
Short and simple, nothing!
From here on remember, I have no documentation! I am 100% guessing!!
It's not like we see Mitch Kapor banging on doors all around Second Life so there is no reason to expect any different from Randy and Brad.
Linden Research Inc. is the investment vehicle for Linden Lab. That is why most of us have never heard of it. When Philip Rosedale wanted to start Second Life he walked door to door to find investors. He found a few and with that capital he could buy stuffs and rent a poor peoples apartment on Linden Street, San Francisco.
Of the original investors, I think there were five, Mitch Kapor is the one best known. (There was a Judy?) Philip had some cash with him coming from RealNetworks. The capital was combined and legal things were documented.
It's a private company. The capital was divided into owner shares and based on that the investors would receive a percentage of the profit. The shares can not be freely traded, if an investor wanted to un-invest the only way to do that is to sell the shares back to Linden Research Inc.
When profits began to flow in and the break even point was passed the employees received, besides pay, shares in the company. These shares are more limited as the investment shares. They pay out, but don't give any voting rights.
Linden Research Inc. (the money) appoints the Board of Directors of Linden Lab. These define the strategy, check accounting and appoint the CEO.
The value of the company roughly can be divided,
15% IP rights (protected software)
70% Clients and goodwill
Add to that the value of the potential of Tilia.
Who owns the stock
80% original investors
20% (former) employees
How well is Second Life doing? There are two answers to that.
1/ The investors are making profit, they have received more as their original investment.
2/ Second Life is no longer the money maker as it used to be. Income has dropped significantly but is stable the last few years. It is making good profits.
So why then sell off to two investors?
The answer could be as simple as. A few of the original investors want their stock converted to money.
Problem is, the (book) value of Linden Research is so high that the other investors can't match that and can't (or don't want to) increase their investment. Getting a normal loan from a bank would not be a good idea.
Another, more exciting, answer could be. There are plans to do something that costs a lot of money. For instance, set up an owned cloud.
There is a risk that Randy and Brad will be doing the hedge fund thing. However, when you look at the (assumed) distribution of value, there isn't much that can be sold off and rented back (since that is what the hedge funds do, and then let it die).
Sure it's possible to sell up the competencies (IP) of running Second Life and Tilia. But that would create competition reducing the value.
Sell off Second Life as a whole would be possible. But that would scare away clients and goodwill. Nobody wants an ad during log-in or while exploring the world. Nobody wants their userdata to be exploited by some sugar mountain.
Sell off the servers, well, that will happen when our bunny knows how to tweak things and puts us all in the cloud. The servers could be rented out to Amazon and become part of the AWS cloud, or be sold to them. It's just a bunch of machines with cables around them.
What will be sold to Randy and Brad? Not sure. I find it hard to believe that all original investors will hand over their stock. Philip selling off his stake in his brainchild? No way. Can they get their hands on the stock owned by (ex) employees? Unlikely.
I have to assume that Randy and Brad will get a majority stake in Linden Research because of the word acquired and the regulatory things. They will not get complete ownership, as is reflected by the board of directors that doesn't change except that Randy and Brad will be part of it. If they had full ownership they could/ should push them out.
They key words in the publication are "to help Linden Lab achieve new heights in distribution, scale, and quality while remaining true to the original vision, creativity, and community that makes Second Life unique and special" also "continue growth and expansion".
I am sure things will change. I find it unlikely that those changes would hurt the community. It could be possible that a localized Second Life could spring up, only for one language/country on a localized, faster, cloud. Would create competition and would break up the communities but it could be a specialized world, for education, museum or training ground separate from Second Life but controlled by Linden Lab, from a distance.
From my point of view, no time to call it quits. I'm not selling of my lands.
Randy and Brad will get an account. Be Lindens, and we, as a community, will make sure they will only do good for us. We are the value of Second Life, that won't change.
Reporter Vick Forcella