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Lefkofsky’s track record, reflecting failures and successes, bears certain hallmarks: rapid revenue growth accompanied by big losses, a penchant to sell stock early on, and lawsuits filed by investors, lenders or customers who feel they have been wronged.Lefkofsky began his first venture, athletic-apparel maker Brandon Apparel, which he and Keywell bought after graduating law school together, in 1994.
Not long after that transaction, Ha-Lo declared bankruptcy. In early 2000, Starbelly sold itself to another company called Ha-Lo Industries for $240 million, much of which went to the author of those words, a man named Eric Lefkofsky. It was written in an email by the co-founder of a company called Starbelly.com, which labeled itself a B2B provider — back when people greeted that phrase with a straight face. It’s pretty much what you’d expect a novice executive to say back then, when it was all about money and not at all about creating something good. if we get wacked [sic] on the ride down-who gives a shit… WE HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE…” This is a quote from the dot-com era.Shareholders and others blamed the Starbelly deal, and a series of lawsuits ensued.
Eric Lefkofsky is the co-founder and chairman of Groupon, which filed last week for an IPO valuing the company at $30 billion, as well as its largest shareholder, with a pre-IPO 22% stake in the company.
The other co-founders include Andrew Mason (8% stake), the cherubic public face of Groupon; and Bradley Keywell (7% stake), who also co-founded Starbelly with Lefkofsky.
Before Starbelly, Keywell and Lefkofsky founded a sportswear company called Brandon Apparel. Everyone remembers things they said a decade or more ago they may regret today.
And failure is hardly something to be ashamed of in tech; usually it’s heralded as a mark of having shot for the moon, something to be prized and not frowned upon.
But Groupon’s IPO has brought an uncomfortable spotlight onto Lefkofsky.
While some attention focuses on his ambitions as an investor in tech startups, others see a “spotty history” and draw parallels between the past and the present.