Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photograph by Michael Nagle — Bloomberg/Getty Images

BlackRock's cash infusion may have actually been a loan

By Tom Huddleston, Jr.
May 19, 2015

A recent major investment in fitness band maker Jawbone may not have technically been an investment.

What was originally billed as a $300 million cash infusion from BlackRock BLK , the world’s largest asset manager, may actually have been a loan, according to a Bloomberg report that cites anonymous sources as well as a recent filing.

Jawbone makes the popular Up fitness bands as well as Jambox speakers, but the 16-year-old company has struggled to take off in the growing wearable technology market. A Fortune feature story earlier this year looked at some of the issues that have plagued the company, which had raised more than $400 million prior to BlackRock’s involvement.

Now, Bloomberg calls BlackRock’s cash “something of a bailout for Jawbone,” a company that has yet to show consistent profitability. Bloomberg adds:

“BlackRock’s decision to use debt rather than equity is one way that late-stage investors can protect themselves when backing private, venture-supported companies. Equity investors in private companies rarely get the same financial transparency or shareholder rights that they do with publicly traded companies.”

Flextronics, an electronics components manufacturer, sued Jawbone last year in a $21 million breach of contract lawsuit over an alleged unpaid bill. That suit was quickly settled.

Earlier this year, rumors surfaced that Google GOOG might make a strategic investment in Jawbone, but the search giant has yet to make such a move.


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