An ugly fight over money is threatening the future of Bono’s Silicon Valley private-equity firm, Elevation Partners. After several rough years, a key founding partner, Marc Bodnick, is bailing out and fighting with Elevation’s leader, Roger McNamee, over his share of the firm’s profits, according to a person close to the company. The feud, which has been simmering in private, is now erupting into a nasty public battle.
The conflict seems to be based on a deal involving Facebook: Elevation put $210 million into the social-networking site by purchasing shares sold by Facebook employees, at a valuation of $15 billion. Recent estimates now put Facebook’s value at $50 billion, tripling Elevation’s money. But Elevation can’t cash out on Facebook until the site goes public (probably a year or two away). By leaving now, Bodnick will presumably give up some of his share of that windfall—but he’s fighting to keep a portion of the profits.
The drama is happening at a terrible time for the company, just as Elevation is trying to get investors to put in more money so it can launch a second fund. But investors may shy away if they believe the guy responsible for the firm’s smart bets is now leaving. If Elevation can’t raise a new fund, the firm eventually will dwindle away, a source in the Valley venture community says. And that could spell the end of Bono’s days as a tech mogul.