Nov 3, 2017

Ron Conway sued by former venture capital partner

Venture capitalist David Lee has sued former partner Ron Conway for millions of dollars Lee feels is being improperly withheld by Conway, according to a complaint filed last week in Marin County Superior Court.

Why it matters: Lee and Conway co-founded one of Silicon Valley's most prominent seed investing firms, backing such companies as Airbnb, Pinterest and Snapchat. But their split in 2015 was not nearly as amicable as initially portrayed, and now threatens to get even uglier via litigation.

Backstory: Lee is the former managing partner of SV Angel which he co-founded with Conway, a Silicon Valley investing legend, having pumped early money into companies like Google and PayPal.

In 2015, Lee left SV Angel in what was publicly portrayed as an amicable split – born largely of geography (Lee had moved his family to Los Angeles, and was tired of commuting north). Behind the scenes, however, Conway felt that Lee had been pilfering SV Angel funds (albeit legally, via "fee waiver" agreements Lee had included in fund documents that Conway never read too carefully). I detailed the entire saga in a May 2016 story for Fortune that is featured prominently in Lee's complaint.

Complaint: Lee, who now runs a firm called Refactor Capital, is suing Conway for breach of contract and payment of the estimated $3.5 million he says he's owed via the settlement agreement reached upon his departure ($1.5m of which he claims Conway is holding in escrow). Lee also wants declaratory relief, which could address the $15 million to $20 million he expects to be owed in the future, once companies like Airbnb go public.

Lee's statement to Axios: "When I left SV Angel, Ron Conway and I reached a settlement regarding my departure. Many of the terms we agreed upon were proposed by Ron. I wish Ron no ill will. I simply want him to honor the agreement we signed."

Conway's statement to Axios: "In connection with his departure, the SV Angel funds and David entered into a settlement agreement. Recently a dispute has arisen regarding compliance with some settlement agreement terms. Before we could resolve our differences David filed a lawsuit insisting upon money that SV Angel does not believe he is entitled to receive. It is very disappointing that David is trying to pressure SV Angel to pay monies that do not belong to him, and the SV Angel funds intend to vigorously defend against David's meritless claims."

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