SpinVox: Patricia Russo joins and immediately leaves, new CFO appointed

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A number of significant developments have emerged today in the SpinVox saga. Andrew Orlowski at the Register broke the story this afternoon that former Alcatel-Lucent CEO Patricia Russo joined the firm as a director on 2 June 2009, only to leave on 10 August. Russo is one of the most high-profile business women in the US and would have been a terrific asset to SpinVox given her experience and connections in the telecoms industry. But she left as quickly (and quietly) as she had arrived. Why?

Meanwhile, word reaches us that SpinVox finally has a CFO: John Botts, who has been on the board of directors since August 2006. SpinVox has had no CFO since August 2008, when Andrew Cherry left. SpinVox has a high turnover of financial staff: since June 2008, two high-level executives have come and gone. How long will Botts stick it? More to the point, why has Botts taken the role at all? He’s a high-powered banker and deal-maker, far too experienced to be CFO of a start-up. One source we just spoke to commented that John Botts coming in as CFO “is like Mandelson coming in as Deputy PM. Botts is semi-retired!” So what’s going on?

Here’s a pie chart (via paidContent:uk) of SpinVox’s equity split, as of July 8. It shows Christina Domecq holding 16.93% of the company’s shares.

You can add these revelations to the growing number of resignations at SpinVox from staff further down the food chain. Each one seems to be accompanied by cryptic remarks:

picture-26

Update: SpinVox has been in touch via its PR firm, Brunswick, to deny that Botts is performing any sort of official financial function at the company. Eh? More when we have it.

  • CE

    Milo:

    Keep digging.

    Read the comments here:
    http://paidcontent.co.uk/article/419-interview-christina-domecq-ceo-spinvox-pt-1-managing-through-the-crunch/

    This is a train wreck in slow motion.

  • anon

    Milo, Cherry left in 2008, I believe.

    • http://uk.techcrunch.com/author/milo-yiannopoulos/ Milo Yiannopoulos

      Oops – typo – thank you.

  • anonymous

    DIdn’t David Christorpher serve as SpinVox CFO for a short stint in Spring 2009?

    The Register (August 4) “In May SpinVox announced they’d be appointing one David Christopher to fill the vacant CFO position full-time, but he hasn’t started yet.” http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/04/spinvox_visit/

    But please dig deeper. Ask insiders about David Christoper and whether or not he was serving as full-time CFO in March.

    And look at official PR in March (two months before “May”): http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20090320005024/en

  • http://www.majorgrooves.co.uk Steven Renwick

    How much does Christina Domecq get paid as CEO of this startup? I thought I read in one of your articles that she got £500k. That can’t be right can it?

    • http://uk.techcrunch.com/author/milo-yiannopoulos/ Milo Yiannopoulos

      A bit more than that, actually. As CEO of a start-up that doesn’t break even yet.

    • http://uk.techcrunch.com/author/milo-yiannopoulos/ Milo Yiannopoulos

      Just found the correct figure in the 2007 accounts: it’s £564,000.

      Previous year (2006): £249,000

  • http://uk.techcrunch.com/2009/08/19/voxsciences-is-this-the-spinvox-story-that-should-have-played-out/ VoxSciences - is this the Spinvox story that should have played out?

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  • http://www.newsjacker.co.uk/media/voxsciences-is-this-the-spinvox-story-that-should-have-played-out/ VoxSciences – is this the Spinvox story that should have played out? 

    […] the who-ha swirling around Spinvox at the moment, UK startup VoxSciences is just getting on with […]

  • anonymous

    Many questions have been asked about the role of the SpinVox CFO, because it looks fishy for a company that raised $200M, plus $25M last month, to be operating without a CFO. No CFO looks bad, and high turnover of CFO (by resignations) looks worse (especially in the context of news of Patricia Russo resigning as director after just 2 months).

    SpinVox has not told a consistent story about who is serving as its CFO.

    SUMMER 2008: Andrew Cherry resigned as CFO, a fact that has not been disputed. In addition, it has been reported that other senior Finance professionals at SpinVox have also resigned since then.

    MARCH 2009: David Christopher starts as CFO, working fulltime at SpinVox’s HQ in Marlow beginning in February or March. SpinVox announces on March 20 that he was already serving in that role: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20090320005024/en

    EARLY AUGUST: Questions emerge about whether SpinVox has a CFO. In response, The Register reports on August 4: “In May SpinVox announced they’d be appointing one David Christopher to fill the vacant CFO position full-time, but he hasn’t started yet.” http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/04/spinvox_visit/

    AUGUST 18: Milo at TechCrunch reports that “Meanwhile, word reaches us that SpinVox finally has a CFO: John Botts…… SpinVox has had no CFO since August 2008, when Andrew Cherry left….. Update: SpinVox has been in touch via its PR firm, Brunswick, to deny that Botts is performing any sort of official financial function at the company. Eh? More when we have it.” http://uk.techcrunch.com/2009/08/18/spinvox-patricia-russo-joins-and-immediately-leaves-new-cfo-appointed/

    AUGUST 19: “SpinVox tells us Roger Frye has been serving as acting CFO, four days a week, since Cherry’s departure.” http://paidcontent.co.uk/article/419-spinvox-taking-financial-advice-from-ubm-chair-loses-russo-from-board/

    If it is true that Roger Frye has been acting CFO for the past 12 month, then how do you explain the March press release (see link above) that David Christopher IS the CFO (with no mention of Roger Frye)?

    What ever happened to David Christopher?

    Did he resign like Andrew Cherry and Patricia Russo? Why?

  • anonymous

    Smelly. And no updates on their blog for a while… the poster child of UK social media is frozen in the headlights.

    Now they get traditional PR heavies to beat up journalists instead!

    • D

      And when his company needs him most, their corporate blogger is out of his depth and/or in denial and/or off enjoying adventure holidays. Nice job too, if you can get it.

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  • Heikki Haldre

    It reads like the story for boo.com – they were looking for CFO for about 6 months, and when finally Dean Hawkins from Adidas joined, he left within few of weeks.
    Boo.com was also raising their money thru PE.

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