Things are not progressing well for Dan Bilzerian, the ‘king of Instagram’.
Every day brings new revelations about the fraudulent nature of his crumbling empire. It is becoming apparent that Dan is not only a clueless businessman but that his father Paul Bilzerian, a convicted white-collar felon, is pulling the strings at Ignite and Dan is merely the hapless front-man, who may soon face serious criminal charges.
We know that the $60 million house that Dan claimed to own, was in fact rented, and someone other than Dan was picking up the tab. The property has now been vacated and Ignite party headquarters moved to a unlisted location. We know that Dan’s lavish lifestyle was being funded by Ignite, a listed company hoping to cash in on the legalised cannabis boom that has yet to materialise. The problem with treating a listed company as a personal piggy bank is that there are specific laws that prohibit such actions.
We also know that Dan’s backstory of making tens of millions playing poker is a complete falsehood. The man barely knows the rules of the game. We know that the bikini-clad models that accompany Dan on his many jet setting adventures are paid to be there, and are opportunistic brand ambassadors looking to further their careers and burnish their online profiles.
Dan Bilzerian and the Impotence of Social Media
The Ignite calamity is also a case study into the impotence of social media. While Dan pays fees to boost his Instagram following, as laid out in Ignite financial statements, it seems almost inconceivable that a public figure with over 30 million apparent adherents would be unable to sell some units. You’d think Dan could simply scrawl his name on a T-shirt and fan-boys would line up to purchase the garment. Based on very modest conversion rates, Ignite should be flooded with orders, and yet the company is deep in the red, trading at enormous losses, possibly while insolvent, which happens to be illegal.
Much of the information relating to Dan’s epic business ineptitude comes from a lawsuit filed by former Ignite executive, Curtis Heffernan, who was cut loose because he sought to rein in Dan’s profligate and illegal expenditure. Heffernan’s insights shed light on the bumbling ineptitude and outright larceny being attempted by the father-son combination. There’s a distinct possibility the Ignite transgressions will lead to serious charges, and that Dan might end up with a rap sheet similar to his exiled dad.
Some of the entries in the Ignite books are astounding. Millions of dollars are meant to be paid to other Bilzerian corporate vehicles for the use of the Ignite logo for example. Such shenanigans might pass in a private company, but once an enterprise is listed on a stock exchange, scrutiny and oversight become a fearful reality. You cannot just suck a listed company dry, siphon its holdings off to other entities that you control with impunity.
With his empire crumbling, and cash drying up, Dan has put pen to paper to produce an autobiography. If his monosyllabic interviews are any indication, it should be a fascinating 10 minute read. He also continues to trade on his bogus gambling experience, landing a sponsorship deal with FTR Poker, a site looking to break into the Indian market.
While schadenfreude is generally an unattractive response to the public failure of a would-be entrepreneur, it’s difficult not to feel some small satisfaction as the Bilzerian lie unravels. The Bilzerian story almost works as a soap opera or telemovie. There are the duped investors who fell for the playboy image, the millions of boys who made a hero of an inept scamster, the convicted felon pulling the strings from abroad, the harsh collision with reality, and the prospect of rats jumping from a sinking ship.
Dan Bilzerian might be about to learn the definition of Fair Weather Friends.
Jackson Byrne – Economic Correspondent