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Summary:

Pump-and-dump is not a phrase normally associated with startups. But that is exactly what WPP is accusing its fellow investors in Los Angeles-based interactive advertising agency Spot Runner of doing. The global advertising giant, which owns a 3 percent stake in Spot Runner, is suing Battery […]

spotrunnerPump-and-dump is not a phrase normally associated with startups. But that is exactly what WPP is accusing its fellow investors in Los Angeles-based interactive advertising agency Spot Runner of doing. The global advertising giant, which owns a 3 percent stake in Spot Runner, is suing Battery Ventures and Index Ventures, along with Spot Runner’s co-founders and former AOL chief Bob Pittman, alleging they used WPP’s brand to raise more capital, only to turn around and unload the shares in a secondary sale. Spot Runner, which has so far raised $110 million in an email sent to its staff, says that it doesn’t expect the suit to impact its day-to-day business. Amidst the anemic economy, we could see more and more such disagreements get pushed into the public sphere. (See lawsuit documents.)

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  1. This appears to be happening because the facts, if true, are incredibly unusual. Founders of terribly unprofitable companies that change their business model every few months so NOT sell $30M+++ of stock to Series A, B & C investors without telling all main investors about it.

    To make matters worse, if the facts are correct, Spotrunner’s board members also sold stock in the early stages of their existence. This truly bizarre behavior. I’ve raised money 5 or 6 times and have never heard of such activity.

    I guarantee that you won’t hear a single investor come out and state that they would not have invested had Nick Grouf not sold them millions of his personal stake. That is the company defense by the way. It just doesn’t pass the sniff test.

  2. This does not look good for the founders and VC firms involved. Whatever happened to fiduciary responsibility.

    The irony is SpotRunner will be hiring an outside law firm to fight these allegations with WPP invested money. What a disaster!

  3. Wow, the stink from this is really overwhelming

    Read the complaint — if WPP is even remotely describing events and facts they (and so many others) have been mightily wronged

    Grouf has been a flim flam artist for 15 years.

    Battery, I don’t get — one would think that firm did not need to go down into the sewer to find money

    And Bob Pittman? Its amazing Pittman didn’t do the perp walk for his part in architecting the criminal conspiracy known as AOL (seriously – how did it happen that low level functionaries could be guilty of criminal acts and fraud, but the folks who approved all the acts — Pittman, Case, Novack et al — skated off with their ill gotten gazillions?). guess his greed knows no bounds

    please gigaom — dont let this go. report this story. its so revealing about so many things about the culture of greed and casual disdain

  4. If Spot Runner goes down in flames (as it appears it will), the market is then only served by the remaining players: Google TV which is in Beta, template ad-maker Spotzer (which seems to have moved away from local TV ads to online media), and the dotcom CheapTVSpots which remains the most award-winning discount TV ad agency in the world. Google TV may have more trouble in this space than it’s worth, given to the low traditional profit margins of the industry and the tiny budgets that clients for this type of service usually are beset with. Clients do not like to bid up against each other for TV air time. That’s one of the problems that Spot Runner may have had…high additional media costs, and that’s going to be the problem for TV ads from Google. Clients are not stupid. They eventually figure out where they’re getting shorted, and flee for greener pastures.

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