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Founder Steven Bartlett moves to clarify Social Chain sale confusion


Dragon’s Den star Steven Bartlett has moved to clarify the details of last week’s purchase of Social Chain, the social media and influencer marketing brand he founded, by London’s Brave Bison for £7.7m.

Social Media was quickly ablaze at the news of the on-trend digital business’s apparent demise, with many questioning how a business reporting revenues in the hundreds of millions had suddenly been sold off for an apparently bargain basement valuation.

“Frustrated golfer” Elliot spoke for many when he queried the maths.

While others were less subtle in their assessments:

Now, Bartlett has taken to social media (where else?) himself to clarify the situation, and it looks like the devil is in the detail, and specifically the corporate structure of the wider group The Social Chain AG Group which, prior to the sale of Bartlett’s original Social Chain agency last week, was its owner, and which has very definitely not been sold:

Writing in a lengthy thread which he shared on both LinkedIn and Twitter, the Social Chain founder, who cut ties with his former business in 2019, explained: “In 2014 I started a company called Social Chain. Shortly after I merged it with Wanja Sören Oberhof’s commerce company Lumaland with the mission of combining our marketing talent and their commerce talent.

“We called the new (listed) group The Social Chain AG and myself and Wanja became Co-CEO’s of the group. All of my equity was in the publicly listed group. Over the next few years, me and Wanja raised capital and acquired agencies and commerce companies under the “Social Chain AG” brand.”

Bartlett goes on to describe how, following a difference of opinion with the board over whether the marketing side of the business, representing five to 10 agencies, and the ecommerce side, representing around 20 companies, should be split into separate entities.

Bartlett felt they should, he says, the board disagreed, and Bartlett tendered his resignation. He adds that at the time of his departure Social Chain AG was generating revenue of around $300m, ans would grow to achieve a stock market valuation of $600m+.

Following Bartlett’s departure, the founder explains that Social Chain AG decided to focus on ecommerce, and set about acquiring ecommerce companies while selling off its marketing agencies around the world, such as Social Chain. Bartlett cites the group’s own release that accompanied the announcement of the Social Chain sale, which stated that marketing currently accounts for just 10 per cent of its business.

Bartlett adds that at the time of his departure in 2019, Social Chain owned almost 10 agencies and they represented about $80m of total revenue in that year. He continues that, to the best of his knowledge, almost all of these agencies have now been sold and the remaining Social Chain agency was generating about £15m of sales in 2022, although the founder concedes that as he is no longer connected with the business he is basing this solely on the company’s own press releases.

Bartlett concludes: “The Social Chain “group” was not sold last week and by all accounts is in a period of healthy transition under a new CEO, Georg [Kofler]…I wish Georg the very best of luck – last week they announced their vision to focus on ecommerce – and not both marketing and commerce. This is the vision I believed in most, and it’s in their DNA! I’ll be following as a friend and a fan!”

By way of a final piece of intrigue, Bartlett also dropped in the fact that he may well be in the market to take a final piece of Social Chain AG’s remaining marketing portfolio off its hands himself, with the almost throwaway line: “I have submitted a bid to buy one such agency from Social Chain Group’s portfolio.”

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