Ex-Lending Club CEO Renaud Laplanche may be trying to take company private

There was Napoleon. There was Charles de Gaulle. Might we soon add Renaud Laplanche to the list of French “leaders” who lost their positions, spent some time in the wilderness, and then came back to power (with mixed results)?

That scenario involving the former Chief Executive of San Francisco-based Lending Club has come to light.

A report from Reuters said Laplanche has had talks with some private equity firms and banks about making a move to buy out Lending Club and take the online loan marketplace private. There has been no outside confirmation of the reported talks, and there remains no guarantee that such a move to take Lending Club private will occur.

But…Just the potential of Laplanche getting back in with Lending Club is enough to boggle the minds of the public and Lending Club investors, who have seen their shares’ value fall by 61 percent this year.

If you recall, it was just one month ago that Laplanche, who co-founded Lending Club, was forced to resign as the company’s CEO. An internal company investigation turned up $22 million in loans that had been sold against the instructions of an investor, and there also were instances which showed Laplanche playing fast and loose with some company policies. Among those were Laplanche not disclosing a personal stake in a fund that Lending Club later invested in, and his taking of a last-minute loan from a Lending Club director so that he could avoid a margin call on an investment.

And then there’s the matter of the U.S. Department of Justice launching its own investigation into Lending Club and everything surrounding Laplanche’s resignation.

If that weren’t enough to roil investors’ stomachs, on Tuesday, Lending Club called off its annual shareholders meeting just as the gathering was getting started, and re-scheduled it for June 28. At almost the same time, Lending Club disclosed that one of its largest shareholders, U.K. investment firm Baillie Gifford & Co., recently dumped its entire 9.1 stake in the company, a total of 34.6 million shares.

So, maybe with all that Lending Club stock up for grabs, and cheap, too, might Laplanche be able to entice someone to help him stage a coup de grace and put himself back on the company’s throne?

Photo: Renaud Laplanche, founder and former CEO of Lending Club, arrives on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange prior to his company’s IPO on┬áDec. 11, 2014. (AP/Richard Drew)

 

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