High Profile UK VC Stefan Glaenzer Faces Jail After Sexual Assault Conviction

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The London tech startup scene has been rocked today by revelations that a major investor is facing jail after being convicted of sexually harassing women on the London Underground Tube network. Multi-millionaire Stefan Glaenzer, the former chairman of music streaming site Last.fm and co-founder of the highly active Passion Capital VC fund and the tech cluster of White Bear Yard in Clerkenwell, was said to be under the heavy influence of cannabis at the time, a court heard.

German-born Glaenzer, 51 – a former dance DJ for 15 years prior to co-founding Ricardo.de – admitted in court that he had “smoked drugs for some considerable time” and that at the time of the incident he was “on a drugs binge” but that his behaviour had never previously lead to “anything like this.”

Glaenzer, of Notting Hill, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault after being witnessed by plain clothes police on the tube sexually assaulting a woman by thrusting “his groin against her backside”, reported The Evening Standard newspaper. This was after two similar incidents which were reported to the Police. There are further details here.

Sallie Bennett-Jenkins QC, defending said, “This conviction has devastated him personally and professionally. He has lost his good character that he has maintained for his entire life.” Glaenzer, a father of three, promised to take steps to address his drug habit, the court heard.

He asked to be sentenced immediately with a fine, but the presiding magistrate adjourned the hearing for a pre-sentence report to be prepared. This was on the basis of her concern that the “offence appears to be planned” and that his drug use “is an aggravating feature, not mitigation.”

Because of the gravity of nature of the conviction, under English law Glaenzer will have to sign the Sex Offenders Register.

Glaenzer became chairman of Last.fm in 2004 and sold his stake for £22 million in 2007. He’s currently an investor but not on the board of health and beauty startup Wahanda.com. Calls to Passion Capital/White Bear Yard were not returned.

He was released on unconditional bail ahead of the sentencing on December 20.

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On a personal note:

Clearly this conviction is incredibly serious and cannot be made light of in any way. Sexual assault is never, ever excusable, whatever the circumstances.

All I can say is that my personal experience of Stefan Glaenzer is that the behaviour outlined above is completely out of character when compared to the man I know.

To everyone he meets, Stefan appears an urbane, laid-back, charming, erudite man who one could never, in a million years, see behaving in this way. Quite clearly the influence of his debilitating addiction to cannabis use – perhaps a toxic hangover from his former life as a DJ – could well have played a major part in all this – though that can be no excuse. Certainly Glaenzer kept his – now obvious – drug use utterly secret, at least from the tech industry in which he was a well-known and well-liked figure.

As for his professional life as an investor and respected player on the internet startup scene in London, one cannot predict the reaction of the community. Some will rally around him, conscious of his high standing and – till now – good reputation. Others will feel unable to based on this conviction and the sordid details of the case.

For myself, I am simply shocked and saddened. One can only hope he seeks help for his problems, that his family is given privacy and the victims in this case – who one cannot forget – see justice.

Update: A woman I know wrote to me when hearing about this case, and her words bear repeating here: “When something like this happens to you, you feel very vulnerable and violated and it raises your fear of it happening again or something even more serious. It’s something that can be trivialised by many people and seen as nearly acceptable. Sometimes how nice the person is in work or to other people is irrelevant because their actions have more than likely deeply upset those women and made them nervous travelling alone. The man’s actions have possibly changed how they carry out their journeys every day, and can well affect them for the rest of their life.”