Mar 27, 2019

Scoop: Silicon Valley VC out after hiring disgraced college "coach"

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Chris Schaepe is out at Lightspeed Venture Partners, after telling his partners about having hired college admissions "coach" Rick Singer to help his son.

The bottom line: Schaepe, who joined LSVP's predecessor firm in 1991, was not among the dozens of parents arrested earlier this month, and tells Axios in a statement that he did not knowingly participate in any bribery schemes.

Axios has learned that Schaepe originally hired Rick Singer to aid in the college admissions process for his son, who had been the manager for his high school's basketball and football teams.

  • The boy's goal was to help manage the men's basketball team at the University of Texas, but those plans got disrupted when coach Rick Barnes was fired in March 2015.
  • Singer then is said to have made an introduction to the UT men's tennis coach, Michael Center, who helped to get Schaepe's son a letter of intent to join the school.
  • A criminal complaint against Center, who has since been fired, suggests that the letter of intent was to play tennis, but that part is not quoted by prosecutors. Instead, a source suggests the plan was for Schaepe's son to manage the team.
  • Overall, Schaepe paid approximately $630,000 to Singer, via cash and stock donations to a nonprofit foundation Singer ran (which appears to have been a front). The complaint does not detail how much additional Schaepe gave Singer for his official college aid services.

Schaepe hired a lawyer after reading about Rick Singer's arrest and informed his partners at Lightspeed about the situation. He was subsequently asked to leave the firm.

Official statement from a Lightspeed spokesperson:

Lightspeed Partner Chris Schaepe recently made the firm aware of a personal matter. We determined to separate from Chris to ensure this matter does not interfere with firm operations. The matter does not involve the firm, its personnel or its portfolio companies.

Official statement from Chris Scheape's spokesperson:

"We are deeply disturbed that the person we had trusted to guide us through the college application process was engaged in inappropriate acts. Like countless other families, we believed that his services and his foundation were all above board, and we are shocked by his deception.”

Between the lines: Lightspeed was heavily criticized in 2017 over its response to allegations that one of its partners had sexually harassed several female entrepreneurs, prior to him leaving Lightspeed to form a new firm. Lightspeed may not have wanted to risk its reputation being damaged for a second time, even if it means firing a longtime, founding partner who has not been charged with a crime.

Go deeper: A parent's account of the college bribery scandal

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