Stock in ad tech company Rocket Fuel temporarily halted trading on Friday morning after rival ad tech company Gravity4 made an out of the blue bid to buy the company for $US350 million in cash.
According to Re/Code’s Kara Swisher, Gravity4 CEO Gurbaksh Chahal wrote in a letter to the company’s board: “I have observed that Rocket Fuel has hit a road block in this environment, and continues to struggle with its declining gross margins, as evidenced by its recently reported loss of $US13.6 million in Q1, with no guidance as to what the remainder of 2015 holds in store … For Rocket Fuel, the status quo is not an option.”
Rocket Fuel’s stock jumped 18% in premarket trading, according to MarketWatch. Rocket Fuel’s stock resumed trading at 9.50am ET, and is up around 8% at the time of writing.
For Rocket Fuel’s stock to stop trading is bizarre to say the least. A $US350 million cash offer seems too good to be true, as observers have noted:
Swisher was referring to the length of her article on Chahal’s bid (just one paragraph.)
Chahal is the troubled founder of another adtech company, RadiumOne, who was ousted from that firm by his own board after he was accused of punching his girlfriend. The prosecution dropped felony charges but he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanours — domestic assault and domestic violence — following a plea bargain. He was sentenced to three years probation, a 52-week domestic violence training course, and 25 hours of community service.
He later started another company, Gravity4, a rival ad tech company that has made nine acquisitions in the past nine months of small ad tech companies such as Triggit, and most recently AdX Search. (We understand those deals are modest, and mostly in stock.) A Rocket Fuel acquisition would probably be valued at more than all the acquisitions it has done to date combined. And then some.
Meanwhile, Chahal and his company are currently being sued over alleged gender and age discrimination by Gravity4’s former SVP of global marketing, who claims that her former boss illegally spied on her during a job interview.
Chahal is a perennial self-publicist who once appeared on Oprah, publishes a blog called #BeLimitless with life coach-esque posts on succeeding in business, and has been described by industry veterans as everything from “a freak show”, to “a great marketer!” and worse.
He claims his new company is valued at $US1 billion.
Rocket Fuel has advised its shareholders to take no action at this time while it evaluates the proposal, according to this statement.
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