- Former Crowdmix CEO Ian Roberts described investor Nick Candy as a “gangster” in a high court hearing.
- Roberts claimed Candy engineered his resignation from the startup by threatening to withhold a promised investment, a scheme that was “effectively blackmail.”
- He claimed Candy wanted to buy the business at a knock-down price.
Ian Roberts, the CEO of failed music startup Crowdmix, broke six months of silence today with the claim that he and his former company were subjected to “blackmail” by one of its investors, Nick Candy.
Roberts told the high court on Tuesday that Candy Capital, property tycoon Nick Candy’s investment vehicle, “acted with malice” to take over the company he founded by threatening to withhold investment funding unless he resigned. Roberts was giving evidence as part of an unrelated £132 million case brought a former friend of the Candys, property developer Mark Holyoake.
Roberts alleged the company “had a plan to take control of Crowdmix on terms that were hugely advantageous to them.” He described Candy Capital’s alleged actions as “effectively blackmail” and “as unethical as it was possible to be.”
A spokesman for the Candy brothers said: “Ian Roberts’ claims are unsubstantiated and denied in their entirety. His role in the failure of Crowdmix was well-documented in both the business and mainstream media. His allegations are being used solely to cause reputational damage to Nicholas Candy.”
According to Roberts’ statement, filed with the high court, Crowdmix co-founder Gareth Ingham described Candy as a “gangster.” Roberts added: “I agreed Nick was acting like a gangster and he was playing us”.
The former Crowdmix CEO said he was still looking for a job and working on a non-profit. Under cross-examination from defence barrister Thomas Plewman QC, Roberts said: “I am desperately sad it [Crowdmix] did not succeed.”
He also alleged that Candy Capital had fed rumours to journalists last summer, when Crowdmix’s collapse was widely covered by the press. He said: “I believe rumours in the media were given by Candy Capital.”
Specifically, Roberts claimed that reports at the time that costs were spiralling out of control were not true. He said: “Costs were not only under control, but agreed.”
When Crowdmix began to unravel last year, and jobs were in jeopardy, Roberts also claimed in his witness statement that Nick Candy had said “Fuck the law,” in relation to layoffs.
The alleged chain of events
Roberts’ witness statement describes the months leading up to summer 2016, when Crowdmix was attempting to raise a £15 million-£20 million equity round from investors including Damus Capital and Candy Capital. Candy Capital had, according to his statement, invested around £8.45 million by May 2015 and allegedly promised a further £5 million in funding.
But in April and May of 2016, Roberts said, the team faced huge challenges. Co-founder Gareth Ingham had a new baby, after his wife had a “difficult pregnancy,” while other executives dealt with family emergencies. This, Roberts said, explained why the company “didn’t do as well as we should have done”.
Nick Candy, Roberts said, did his bit by holding a “fundraising event” on his yacht at the Cannes Lions advertising event in France, in June 2016.
In his statement, Roberts said that Candy is an investor in another UK startup, augmented reality service Blippar. Candy Ventures is listed as a Blippar investor in Companies House documents filed last year.
According to his statement, this is how the event went:
“All those present from [Candy Capital] were extremely pleased with the presentation and we were warmly received afterwards. The anecdote is important as it evidences what Nick was saying privately to his rich and influential friends only a couple of weeks before I left.”
But the relationship turned sour. The company had yet to launch a product. Roberts claimed Nick Candy used Crowdmix’s difficulties to engineer his resignation — by threatening to withhold the promised £5 million in convertible loan funding unless he left — just as the company was about to close the investment round.
According to Roberts’ statement:
“I met [co-founder] Gareth [Ingham] at the Hoxton hotel on Sunday 30th May. The meeting was brief. Gareth told me that Nick Candy had made it clear that he wanted me to leave Crowdmix; that Candy Capital would invest no more money if I remained in the business.”
Crowdmix’s then CFO, David Newland, was also allegedly told to resign.
Roberts attributed the lack of any further funding for Crowdmix to Nick Candy’s alleged interference, saying his own and Newland’s departure spooked investors. Crowdmix was eventually sold for the most part to Nick Candy, something Ian Roberts claimed the tycoon had in mind all along.
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