Bono's Big Boner
Talk about pissing money down the drain . . . this guy will be touring until he's 70:
Elevation Moving to Acquire a Large Stake in Pandora
Sarah Lacy Aug 24, 2010
Elevation Partners’ strategy to own large– even if late stage– chunks of leading Internet companies isn’t going away. We’ve heard from sources close to Elevation that the firm has signed a letter of intent to acquire a large chunk of shares in a “leading online music company” from an early investor, and Pandora spokesperson Deborah Roth has confirmed, “We’re aware that Elevation has been interested in buying Pandora shares.”
Earlier sources close to Elevation had told us that there was one more large secondary deal brewing to invest in a well-known, established Internet brand and that the deal size would be around $100 million. It’s a decent assumption this is the deal in question. Especially considering how long some early investors have been in Pandora, and the general meh-ness of this year’s IPO market.
I Shit You Not
Bono gained notoriety as a rockstar
Bon Jovi gained notoriety as a rockstar
Bono does not use the traditional "given-name/surname" arrangement in his stage name
Bon Jovi does not use the traditional "given-name/surname" arrangement in his stage name
The first 3 letters of Bono's stage name are "BON"
The first 3 letters of Bon Jovi's stage name are "BON"
Bon Jovi pissed away $20mm on an Arena-League Football Franchise and now has to go back out on tour. The guy who sold it to him is "Wanted Dead or Alive"
Bono pissed away $100mm on some kind of free internet music service called Pandora and will now be touring until he's 70. Bono is "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get out of."
I Shit You Not!
Hmmmmm, read on . . .
Elevationís LPs Refuse Extension for New Deals, Fund Riding on Facebook and Yelp
Sarah Lacy Sep 1, 2010
The hits just keep on coming for Elevation Partners, the one-time digital media, private equity dream team that has reconfigured itself as an investor in late stage Web 2.0 treasures. Earlier this summer, Elevation requested an extension on investing its $1.9 billion fund, and TechCrunch has learned that that request was deniedóa move that came as surprise to us and to Elevation, we hear.
So what does that mean? Clearly, LPs are sending a strong message that has to do with Elevation, but also has a lot to do with the broader market: They want to see some returns before they pony up more money. But the news isnít nearly as bad as it sounds.
For one thing, weíre only talking about $100 million or so of the $1.9 billion fund. At most, this would have represented one more deal in the portfolio. Whatís more Elevation can still call up that $100 million to invest in a follow-on round in existing portfolio companies, so itís not like the fund size has necessarily been reduced to $1.8 billion. There is just a new restriction on how they can spend that last $100 million.
What does this mean for that Pandora deal? It doesnít kill it, because Elevation signed an agreement to invest before the original five-year investment period elapsed. But that deal isnít done and itís unclear if thereís a snag or the deal is just taking some time. In our earlier story, Pandora confirmed that Elevation had expressed interest and sources close to Elevation say an agreement to invest was already signed.
Either way, the fund will hinge on Elevationís investments in Yelp and Facebook. As we reported before, if you average together Elevationís investment in Facebook it holds its shares at a valuation of $29 per share and Facebook has been trading as high as $70 a share on the secondary market. Itís hard to imagine a scenario where Elevation loses money on this, but the concern is when and how do they cash out?
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly telegraphed that heís in no hurry to do an IPO, and his use of late stage and secondary deals has alleviated the pressure to do one. Typically companies go public because early employees want liquidity, the company wants a hoard of cash to grow or the company wants a stock currency to do acquisitions. Facebook has checked most of those off. Early shareholders can (and many have already) exit on the secondary market or through one-time deals like the one with DST. The company has raised a whopping $836 million in capital according to CrunchBase and is reported by some to be doing revenues in the $2 billion range. And, again, thanks to the secondary market, Facebook has an externally validated price, making it easier to do any stock transactions than it would have been for a private company ten years ago. On paper, Elevationís investment in Facebook is soaring. But LPs are going to want to see more than paper if theyíre going to invest in a second fund.
That brings us to Yelp. Yelpís ascendancy is far less of a sure thing than Facebookís, but Elevation owns a much bigger chunk of the company. It bought shares at a price that valued Yelp at $475 million, just shy of the price it reportedly turned down from Google. Few (rational) people think Yelp will be worth nothing. The question is: Does it wind up somewhere around the price of Slide or does it become one of the few $1 billion winners of the Web 2.0 era? For Elevation to make the kind of return itís hoping for, Yelp needs to make sure upstarts like Groupon and FourSquare donít steal its opportunities for micro-local monetization. Personally, Iím still bullish on Yelpís odds, and the early results of its first San Francisco deal look promising. But a sure thing it is not.
Pandora could be the last deal Elevation does in this fund, or if Yelp goes south, it could be the last deal Elevation does ever. Even though the firm can call that last $100 million for a follow-on, odds are Elevation wonít. Facebook valuations are soaring out of control on the secondary market and the company already owns one of the largest stakes in Yelp. The Palm-batross is gone, and Forbes is what it is. Itís a near-certainty no more money is going towards saving Forbes, especially given Elevationís re-tooled team and investment approach. The firm has learned the lesson about putting too much into one company the Palm-way.
The bets have been made and Elevationís partners will have to wait for the roulette wheel to stop spinning, doing what they can in the mean time to help make their companies stronger. I talked to one small limited partner this week who said he personally wouldnít invest in a second fund, and another who said he loved the new team, but worried the change in strategy just came too late.
Like Yelp, I think Elevation has a decent chance of pulling the second fund off. There is clearly a market for these mega, late-stage transactions, and there arenít a ton of Valley teams who have experience doing them and few Wall Street teams that have the contacts here. But donít expect them to hit the fundraising trail until Yelp and Facebook exits look more certain.