Ellen Pao yesterday said that she will drop her appeal of the jury verdict that denied her claims of gender discrimination and retaliation against former employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, essentially saying that the case had become too expensive to continue. Still unclear are the specific grounds on which Pao planned to appeal as she neither disclosed them in court documents nor shared them when I asked via email last night.
Also unclear is the status of more than $270,000 in Kleiner Perkins legal costs that Pao was required to repay. In a statement published at Re/Code, Pao wrote “I am now moving on, paying Kleiner Perkins’ legal costs and dropping my appeal.” But Kleiner Perkins previously said that if Pao were to drop her appeal, it would drop its request for the funds. Kleiner Perkins has not publicly withdrawn that offer, but Pao emailed me the following:
Their lawyer very specifically wrote to us about two weeks ago that, “KP is not interested in a settlement without a non disparagement provision.” The message we took from their definitive statement was that they rescinded their earlier offer. I have not heard that they have re-extended the offer and removed the non disparagement requirement, except from a half dozen reporters; we have yet to hear it from them directly.
There’s a lot to unpack here.
First, I’m not so sure the message Pao received was the message KPCB intended to send. Remember, Pao previously had offered to drop her appeal if Kleiner would pay her $2.7 million. So couldn’t the “settlement” KPCB referred to above be in reference to that request, rather than its preexisting offer to waive its fees were Pao to appeal? That seems to make more sense, but we’ll see what eventually happens (KPCB isn’t commenting on the record, beyond saying it’s glad the legal case is behind it).
Second, Pao’s original employment contract with KPCB is said to have included non-disparagement language. So why would it be demanding more, particularly when such a request was not included in the original fee waiver offer? Or is this again specific to an additional settlement potential (i.e., some of that $2.7 million), and related to KPCB’s activities after Pao was no longer employed? I followed up with Pao, who directed me to KPCB, which already had said it wasn’t commenting further.
So this is all over. Sort of.
• Taxing: For years I’ve written that carried interest tax treatment remains intact because the issue works as a perfect political talking point for both parties — Democrats get to yell about a loophole for the rich, while Republicans get to stand fast against raising taxes. But now there may be some real movement on the GOP side of the aisle.
First came Donald Trump’s statement that he’d support changing carried interest tax treatment from a capital gain to ordinary income.
Now Jeb Bush has done the same, in a WSJ op-ed that lays out his tax plan. Well, at least I think he has. Bush wrote: “Unless you stake capital in an investment, you won’t be able to claim the capital-gains tax rate on your market gains.” I could see this later getting pretzeled to permit PE fund managers to receive cap gains treatment on all carry so long as they also made a GP commit to the investment but, for now, I’ll presume the spirit over the letter.
Perhaps more important, however, Bush also took aim at the veritable lifeblood of leveraged buyouts, writing that he would “remove the deduction for borrowing costs.” Going to be fascinating to see how Bush supporters in the PE industry react to that one…
• In memoriam: Please take a moment today to remember the thousands of innocents murdered 14 years ago. In particular, the private equity community lost Brian Dale of Blue Capital Management, Chris Mello of Alta Communications and David Retik of Alta Communications. Please go here to learn more about the Retik Mello Foundation. May they not be forgotten.
THE BIG DEAL
• Avon Products (NYSE: AVP) is in talks to sell a stake in the company to private equity firms, as first reported by the WSJ. Bids are due next week, with possible suitors including Cerberus Capital Management and Platinum Equity. Read more.
VENTURE CAPITAL DEALS
• Social Touch, a Beijing-based provider of mobile social marketing solutions for the enterprise, has raised $60 million in new VC funding led by Legend Holdings. www.social-touch.com
• Argus Cybey Security, an Israel-based provider of automotive cyber security solutions, has raised $26 million in Series B funding. Magna International, Allianz SE and SBI Group were joined by return backers Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Venture Capital and Zohar Zisapel (co-founder of RAD Group). www.argus-sec.com
• Abra, a blockhain-based remittance app, has raised $12 million in Series A funding from Arbor Ventures, First Round Capital and RRE Ventures. www.goabra.com
• Planet3, a Washington, D.C.-based learning startup led by former National Geographic Society president Tim Kelly, has raised $10 million in Series A funding from data center developer Switch. www.exploreplanet3.com
• XOR Data Exchange, an Austin, Texas-based developer of permission-based data exchanges, has raised $4.2 million in Series A funding. Fenway Summer Ventures led the round, and was joined by return backers Chicago Ventures and KGC Capital. www.XOR.exchange
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• ArcLight Capital has committed $200 million in equity funding to form Element Petroleum III LLC, which will be used to find, develop and acquire oil and gas reserves and production, primarily in the Permian Basin. www.arclightcapital.com
• Lyceum Capital has acquired a control stake in Style Research, a London-based provider of investment research and portfolio analysis applications. No financial terms were disclosed. www.styleresearch.com
• Siris Capital Group has agreed to acquire Premiere Global Services Inc. (NYSE: PGI), an Atlanta-based provider of collaboration software and services, for approximately $1 billion. The $14 per share deal represents around a 23% premium to yesterday’s closing price. www.pgi.com
• No IPO news this morning.
• IBM (NYSE: IBM) has acquired StrongLoop, a San Mateo, Calif.-based open-source mobile API tier, for an undisclosed amount. StrongLoop had raised $8 million in VC funding from Shasta Ventures and Ignition Partners. Read more.
• FiscalNote, a Washington, D.C.-based real-time government policy analysis platform, has acquired MyCandidate, a mobile app that aggregates and analyzes information about political candidates in South Korea. No financial terms were disclosed. FiscalNote has raised round $18 million in VC funding, from firms like Renren, Visionnaire Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, AME Cloud Ventures, Steve Case and Mark Cuban. www.fiscalnote.com
• General Electric (NYSE: GE) said that it plans to sell GE Asset Management, which has around $115 billion in assets under management. This is separate from its continuing divestiture of GE Capital. In other GE news, the company has agreed to sell its GE Capital transportation finance business to BMO Financial Group. www.ge.com
• Nippon Life Insurance Co. has agreed to acquire smaller Japanese rival insurer MitsuiLife Insurance Co. No financial terms were disclosed, but earlier reports suggested that the deal could be worth around $3.3 billion. Read more.
• TeliaSonera (Oslo: TLSN) and Telenor (Oslo: TEL) have terminated an agreement to merge their Danish businesses, following regulatory opposition. Read more.
FIRMS & FUNDS
• Accolade Partners has closed its fifth venture capital and growth equity fund-of-funds with $200 million in capital commitments. www.accoladepartners.com
MOVING IN, UP, ON & OUT
• Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen has joined European VC firm Balderton Capital as a general partner. He previously was VP of mobile at Uber. Read more.
• Stephen Oesterle, a former executive vice president for Medtronic Inc., has joined New Enterprise Associates as a venture partner. www.nea.com
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