"In 1999, the firm I co-founded, Red Envelope, was drafting an S-1 in anticipation of an IPO. At 31, I stood to register $30-60 million on the IPO. The bursting of the bubble damaged us, but the injuries weren’t fatal, and we were the only retail IPO of 2002. In 2008, a longshoreman strike left all our holiday merchandise hostage on a cargo ship 8 miles off the shores of the port of Long Beach. Then, as the credit crisis began to take hold, a prescient analyst at Wells Fargo decided to pull our credit facility. Within 90 days we were Chapter 11. That event, combined with divorce, reduced my net worth 97%.
I didn’t deserve to lose near-everything. What happened wasn’t my fault — ok, maybe the divorce. Regardless, was this fair or (im)moral? Just as there’s no crying in baseball, there’s no fairness in shareholder accretion or destruction. Looking at jets at 31 wasn’t moral or fair either. So, what happened? Exactly what’s supposed to happen in a market economy — downside registered against commensurate upside.
Red Envelope went through something also uniquely American … and productive — bankruptcy. The equity holders (e.g., yours truly) were wiped out (#bummer). However, we did our duty as board members and found a buyer, Liberty Media, who paid our vendors and kept the employees. No job loss, all debtors paid. When a 31-year-old is shopping for jets in November, part of the agreement with the invisible hand is he may lose most/all of it by March. There’s a word for that … capitalism."