It’s time for RadiumOne’s abusive CEO to go
FORTUNE — Last August, 31 year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur Gurbaksh “G” Chahal was arrested and charged with hitting and kicking his girlfriend 117 times over a 30-minute period. The incident was allegedly caught on film, via some sort of home surveillance system.
Chahal is CEO of RadiumOne, a VC-backed programmatic ad startup that is widely expected to file for an IPO by the end of next year. The company did not remove him as CEO following the arrest, nor suspend him temporarily.
Last week, Chahal dodged the 45 felony charges, instead pleading guilty to two misdemeanor courts: One for domestic violence battery and one for battery. He was sentenced to three years of probation, 52 weeks of participation in a domestic violence program and 25 hours of community service. No jail time.
The felony case fell apart after a judge ruled that the video had been illegally seized (prosecutors argued that police believed Chahal otherwise would have erased the tapes). In addition, Chahal’s victim declined to cooperate. To be clear, no one disputes the existence of the tape – merely whether or not it is admissible in a court of law.
All of this brings us back to RadiumOne. Namely, why is Chahal still CEO? I called and emailed each of the VC board members yesterday to ask, but none of them responded. Do they honestly believe that this man could be brought on an IPO road-show? How do you convince prospective investors that they should trust their money to someone who has displayed such a gross violation of self-control and contempt for society’s moral boundaries? How do you continue to ask employees to work for such a person? At what point do they realize that their fiduciary duty and doing the right thing are one in the same?
For your edification, the four VC board members are: Steve Westly (The Westly Group), Ajay Chopra (Trinity Ventures), Robin Murray (Adams Street Capital) and David Silverman (Crosslink Capital). Chahal also serves on the board as chairman, as does chief operating officer Bill Lonergan. DFJ Esprit’s Krishna Visvanathan is a board observer (he also didn’t return calls).
To be clear, I’m not certain that the VC directors can technically fire Chahal. In most situations they can, but Chalal is believed to hold a 51% equity stake in RadiumOne, and certain rock-star entrepreneurs have been known to have also negotiated board voting control (and, to be clear, Chahal is a very successful entrepreneur – having previously sold two startups for a combined $340 million). But the directors could resign in protest, forcing his hand. Imagine Chihal on an IPO roadshow, having to explain why all of his VCs refused to sit on his board any longer.
I would hope that some removal process is currently underway, thus explaining the lack of return calls. Remember, the guy pled guilty. And before anyone says “Well, he only pled guilty to misdemeanors, not felonies” – please remember that the misdemeanors were directly related to beating his girlfriend. This isn’t about political views or business decisions or yelling at subordinates. It’s about out-and-out violence. If that isn’t a red line for the RadiumOne directors, then perhaps they don’t have one.
UPDATE: At 1:15pm ET on Sunday afternoon, RadiumOne announced that Chahal has been fired as chairman and CEO. Read more here.
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