Steve Case & Ted Leonsis, Can These Two AOL Men, Save Social Local Commerce?

Steve Case,Ted Leonsis,Daily Deals, Groupon,Living Social,sxsw,sxswi

Steve Case (file photo: NMI)

Two of Washington DC’s powerhouse investors, Founder of AOL Steve Case, and owner of the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards, Ted Leonsis, work side by side on many deals. Both are heavily involved in Case’s investment company Revolution.

Leonsis has been involved with Revolution Growth since it’s founding, however he has no financial stake in Revolution Growth I investments. Leonsis and Case have worked together since the AOL days, where Leonsis was a member of active management for 13 years, retiring in 2006.

They continue to work together today, although both are invested as individuals and separately in daily deal competitors Groupon and LivingSocial.

While many know that Groupon’s typical strategy, at least pre-ipo, was to quickly buy up competitors across the country, Living Social has always been on it’s own and will most likely stay that way.

We’ve seen the turmoil that both companies have been going through as of late. Groupon fired it’s founding CEO poster boy, Andrew Mason and quickly installed Leonsis and Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkosky as Co-CEO’s until a new CEO can be named.

Back in the DC area Living Social has been going through some problems of their own.A little over week ago, the investors in Living Social basically took back the company with an emergency $100 million dollar investment, which according to many sources, including, rendered all previous stock, even employee stock, worthless.

(PrivCo EXCLUSIVE): LIVINGSOCIAL Receives Emergency $110M Debt (“Equity” In Name Only) Infusion From Existing Investors With Oppressive Terms, JUST DAYS FROM BANKRUPTCY, Effectively Handing Over Distressed Co. to Today’s Financing Participants…Implied Valuation Incl All Req’d Payments: JUST $330M, DOWN 94% FROM $5.7 BILLION In Dec. 2011 V.C. Round…Pure Equity Was NOT Issued Today (As Has Been Widely Misreported)…Instead, A Desperate LIVINGSOCIAL Accepted A COMPLEX Series of Secured-Convertible-Debt-Like Securities With Onerous Terms (PrivCo Has Confirmed Exclusively) Including: (1) Liquidation Preferences of SEVERAL TIMES the $110M In Debt (2) Mandatory Cash Dividends Due (3) “Super-Warrants” And/Or Large Lump-Sum Cash “Elimination” Payment, (4) Secured Against Co. Assets and Stock, (5) Repayment of the $110M “Loan” in 4 Yrs w Add’l Payments, and (6) Re-Pricing of Participating Investors Earlier Rounds…Employees’ and Founders’ Common Stock Now Worthless. (industry trade publication privco said on their site)

A former LivingSocial employee, on condition of anonymity, told that friends of hers in the sales department hadn’t seen a paycheck in nearly two months, before the most recent cash infusion.  A current LivingSocial employee, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, told us that the company was right on the cusp of some big ideas with both technology and sales and that no one wanted to see the company shut down.

Case was rater bullish on LivingSocial when speaking at the TechCocktail event at SXSW on Saturday afternoon. He said that despite what’s going on with the company, LivingSocial does have the potential to become the next AOL.

Many may recall how Case was instrumental in the biggest media merger of all time beween Time Warner and AOL. Although he is held highly responsible for the merger, he agreed to step down as CEO after that merger closed. While the outcome was far from the results they were expecting, AOL is still a big player in online media and is again seeing forward momentum.

Groupon has already pivoted since their value began declining shortly after going public. They now offer Groupon Goods, an almost Amazon competitor, that is the backbone to where the company is headed.

While LivingSocial hasn’t done anything that drastic just yet, they do have some new technologies in the works.

Case has never been one to turn down the long hall. At 54 he has plenty of time to see some of his investments pay off ten fold. ZipCar, a big investment for Revolution, was just recently sold to Hertz with a huge return to investors. The company was in a position where they didn’t necessarily need to take that deal, but it was right.

While four years may seem like an eternity to a startup, from reading all of the language in various stories about the recent LivingSocial bail out, the investors are giving the team four years to turn things around. Which, may be just enough time.

Meanwhile across the hall at Revolution, Leonsis has taken on much more responsibilities for day to day operations at Groupon.  “There is a ton of negative sentiment in the press about this company, and I think people don’t separate the signal from the noise,” Leonsis told The Verge, “We have $1.2 billion in the bank. We have basically zero debt. And this last quarter, we had an operating profit. Yes, with one-time write downs, there was a loss. But the fundamentals of this business are sound.”

With Leonsis balancing Lefkosky’s Yang, and Case and company giving Living Social four years more breathing room, two men from AOL may have just saved daily deals.

Watch this video with Case’s remarks, this past Saturday at SXSW, on Living Social:

Steve Case talks about the importance of crowdfunding to early stage startups.



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