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The bizarre story of Lordstown Motors

June 21, 2021, 2:07 PM UTC

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In 1995, a New Zealand band called OMC burst onto the music scene with its hit song, “How Bizarre.” While it was a one-hit wonder, the song stuck around. And in 2021, its ultra-catchy chorus found new life, having been co-opted by TikTok users using the lyrics to tell stories of strange occurrences such as the mysterious case of the frozen vodka or the experience of moving to another country.

It was the same loop (“how bizarre, how bizarre, how bizarre”) that played in my head as Lordstown Motors’ story unfolded.

Here’s the quick recap: Last week, the electric vehicle company warned it may not have enough cash to survive the next 12 months if it doesn’t raise more funding. CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez then resigned after an investigation found the company had overstated actual customer demand. Still, the company maintained that a short seller report from Hindenburg Research was largely inaccurate. 

Then a few days after all these events happened, the company’s president Richard Schmidt said the company had enough binding orders to take production through the end of next year. Except they weren’t binding orders, the company later had to clarify in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

And as it turns out, several executives at the business that went public via merger with a special purpose acquisition company sold their stock shortly before a financial report, with Chuan “John” Vo, who runs the company’s propulsion division, selling 99.3% of his vested equity in February, per the Wall Street Journal.

Certainly Lordstown’s snafus and failures are a sign that many companies that should’ve stayed private longer—and scaled more slowly—are coming to market before they were ready via merger with SPACs. Which also means its story is one that will become additional ammo for the SEC to take a harder look at instilling more controls around how such companies report projections.

But what remains more bizarre in all this is perhaps how investors are reacting to revelations that Lordstown misstated demand: Shares of Lordstown are down, yes, but still maintain a market cap of $1.9 billion. The company was valued at $1.6 billion pro forma when its agreement to merge with a SPAC was first announced last year. Yes more regulation will come, but I can’t help but wonder if the resilience of such stocks will take some bite out of attempts to do so, at least for now.

THE TONTINE: Despite pushback from some shareholders over the deal, Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Tontine has signed a deal to acquire 10% of Vivendi’s crown jewel, Universal Music Group, for about $4 billion. The deal values UMG at about $41.6 billion. Vivendi plans to spin off the business and list it in Amsterdam in late September.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: 
@shenlucinda
Email: 
lucinda.shen@fortune.com

VENTURE DEALS

- Anduril, an Irvine, Calif.-based defense startup with a drone interceptor, raised $450 million in Series D funding valuing it at $4.6 billion. Elad Gil led the round and was joined by investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, 8VC, General Catalyst, Lux Capital, Valor Equity Partners and D1 Capital Partners.

- Neo4j, a San Mateo, Calif.-based database startup, raised $325 million in Series F funding, valuing it at over $2 billion. Eurazeo led the round and was joined by investors including GV, Creandum, Greenbridge, and One Peak.

- BharatPe, an Indian fintech, is in talks to raise about $250 million, per TechCrunch. Tiger Global is expected to lead the deal valuing the company at about $2.5 billion pre-money.

- Umoja Biopharma, a Seattle-based oncology treatment company, raised $210 million in Series B funding. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Cormorant Asset Management led the round and were joined by investors including RTW Investments, Temasek, Presight Capital, Caas Capital, and SVB Leerink.

- KeepTruckin, a San Francisco-based trucking fleet management company, raised $190 million in Series E funding, valuing it over $2 billion. G2 Venture Partners led the round and were joined by investors including Greenoaks Capital, Index Ventures, IVP, Scale Venture Partners, and BlackRock. 

- Amber Group, a Hong Kong-based crypto trading and technology firm, raised $100 million in Series B funding. China Renaissance led the round and was joined by investors including Tiger Brokers, Tiger Global Management, Arena Holdings, Tru Arrow Partners, Sky9 Capital, DCM Ventures, and Gobi Partners.

- Securitize, a Miami-based digital assets securitization company, raised $48 million in Series B funding. Blockchain Capital and Morgan Stanley Tactical Value led the round and were joined by investors including Ava Labs, IDC Ventures, Migration Capital, NTT Data, and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank

- LeafLink, a New York-based maker of a business platform for cannabis companies, raised $40 million in extended Series C funding. Nosara Capital and L2 Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Founders Fund and Thrive Capital.

Tesseract, a Helsinki-based digital asset lending company in Europe and emerging markets, raised $25 million in Series A funding. Augmentum Fintech led the round.

- Reibus International, an Atlanta-based industrial materials marketplace, raised $20 million in Series A funding. Canaan Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Nosara Capital, Bowery Capital, Initialized, and Stage2 Capital. 

- TRM Labs, a San Francisco-based crypto fraud detection company, raised $14 Million in Series A funding. Bessemer led and was joined by investors including PayPal Ventures, Initialized Capital, Jump Capital, Salesforce Ventures, Operator Partners, and Blockchain Capital.

- Oxwash, a U.K.-based on-demand laundry service, raised £2.1 million ($3 million) in seed expansion funding. Investors include Future Positive Capital, Clean Ventures, and Conduit-Ascension EIS Impact Fund.

- Curate, a St. Louis-based maker of sales and operations software, raised $1.3 million in seed funding. OCA Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Jim McKelvey, Cultivation Capital, and Stout Street Capital.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- An investor group led by EIG acquired a 49% stake in Saudi Aramco’s Oil Pipeline unit for $12.4 billion.

- Clayton, Dubilier & Rice offered to acquire Morrisons (LON:MRW), a British supermarket chain, for $7.6 billion, but was rejected. The firm is expected to continue trying, per the Financial Times.

- Kerry Group agreed to acquire Niacet, a Niagara Falls, N.Y.-based maker of food preservatives and additives, for about $1 billion (€853 million) from SK Capital Partners.

- Affordable Water Heaters, a portfolio company of Dubin Clark, acquired Temperature Control, a Valencia, Cali.-based provider of water heater and plumbing services. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- One Equity Partners acquired BRUSH Group, a U.K.-based power generation maker. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

EXITS

- KKR agreed to acquire a majority stake in Vini Cosmetics, an India-based personal care and beauty products maker, from investors including Sequoia Capital for about $625 million (INR46 billion). WestBridge Capital will acquire a further stake.

OTHERS

- Gopuff acquired rideOS, a San Francisco-based fleet management platform for $115 million.

IPOS

- ATAI Life Sciences, a Berlin-based biotech focused on psychedelic therapies, raised $225 million in an offering of 15 million shares priced at $15. Apeiron Investment Group, Galaxy Investment Partners, and Peter Thiel back the firm. 

- AiHuiShou International, a Shanghai-based platform for second-hand consumer electronics, raised $227 million in an offering of 16.2 million ADSs at $14. Investors include JD.com and Morningside.

- Biel Crystal Manufactory, a Hong Kong-based supplier of cover glass to Apple, is gearing up for an IPO in Hong Kong that could raise as much as $2 billion, per Bloomberg.

- Wise, a U.K.-based payments company, will go public via direct listing on the London Stock Exchange, per Bloomberg. A deal could value the company at $7 billion.

SPAC

- Confluent, a Mountain View, Calif.-based data streaming platform, now plans to raise $759 million in an offering of 23 million shares priced between $29 to $33. Existing investors Coatue Management and Altimeter Capital  plan to acquire some 3.5 million shares.

- WalkMe, an Israel-based maker of a digital adoption platform, raised $287 million in its IPO. Insight Venture Partners backs the firm. 

- All Market, the company behind coconut water brand Vita Coco, is planning to go public this year, per Bloomberg, citing sources. Read more.

SPAC

- Jaws Juggernaut Acquisition, a SPAC from Barry Sternlicht, raised $240 million in an IPO, up 20% from its previously intended range.

F+FS

- GI Partners, a San Francisco-based private equity firm raised $3.9 billion for GI Partners Fund VI.

- Kaszek Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on Latin America, raised $1 billion: Some $475 million for early-stage startups and $525 million earmarked largely for existing bets.

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