New York investor takes ‘major position’ in PledgeMusic

New York-based VC Magna Entertainment has acquired a ‘major position’ in PledgeMusic, following on from a $3million investment in the UK-based business back in 2014.

According to UK Companies House filings for Ltd, Magna Entertainment’s Russell Rieger officially became a Director of the firm on January 14 this year.

He is now one of only three directors of the company, alongside Pledge’s New York-based founder Benji Rogers and another Magna exec, Joshua Sason (stick around for more on Sason shortly).

To make room for these appointments, a number of former Directors of the Ltd. business stepped down in September 2015.

These included Dave Hackett,  Angus Donaldson, Jayce VardenMike Skeet and Malcom Dunbar.

It is believed some of these execs have continued as employees at PledgeMusic.

(MBW has confirmed that Dunbar is certainly still running the PledgeMusic business in the UK.)

Company secretary Jonathan O’Neill also resigned as an officer of Ltd in September.

His fellow Secretary, Rupert Selby, resigned four months later. Ltd owns Pledge’s main asset – its D2C e-commerce site – but it’s not the only Pledge business in existence.

Dunbar and Rogers remain Directors of PledgeMusic Publishing Ltd (with Paul Barton) and PledgeMusic Recordings Ltd (with Jayce Varden).

Rogers is also a Director of PledgeMusic Retail Ltd, alongside Jayce Varden.

Magna’s Russell Rieger and Joshua Sason are very interesting characters for Pledge to be getting in bed with – especially the latter.

Rieger is a Grammy-nominated senior record executive who served as General Manager and EVP of Creative for Madonna’s Maverick Records, working with artists including The Prodigy, Alanis Morissette, Muse and The Deftones as well as on movie soundtracks, including The Matrix.

Prior to his work with Maverick, Russell was the GM of London Records where he worked with Portishead, Salt n’ Pepa, Meat Puppets and Paul Weller.

He began his career as a manager for Modern English, The Replacements, The Del Fuegos and Cyndi Lauper.

Onto Josh Sason.

According to a revelatory Bloomberg article published early last year, the 28-year-old Magna magnate has “made millions riding the death spiral of penny stocks”.

Bloomberg commented that Sason had “discovered is a way to get shares in desperate and broke companies at big discounts by lending them money”.

It added: “He can still turn a profit, because the terms of the deals allow him to turn debt into equity at a fixed discount. No matter where the stock is trading, he gets it for less.”

But there’s likely more to his involvement in PledgeMusic than that.

The son of an Israeli immigrant, Sason formed a band when he was 10 or 11, The Descent, which played showcases for major labels but, according to a backer at the time, “botched it beyond belief”.

In addition, Sason actually formed Magna Entertainment in 2013 as a vehicle to solely drive the music career of Israeli actress and model Sarai Givaty who, amongst other trivia, was once romantically linked with Mel Gibson.

“Magna is the ideal business partner for artists, creative executives and businesses looking for innovative thinking, creative brand positioning and a fresh approach to traditional industries,” said Sason in an announcement covering the new position taken in Pledge.

Of Rieger’s appointment, he added: “Given the immense changes in consumer behavior, advertising and technology, we believe there are incredible opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs who are able to combine creative sensibilities with business acumen.

“Russell brings a wide and effective network of partners and strategic insight to the ventures Magna invests in, adding immediate value and growth potential.”

Added Russell Rieger: “The opportunity at Magna is tremendously exciting and I’m extremely grateful to Joshua for fostering an entrepreneurial climate which allows us to both invest in and develop companies that challenge existing methodologies and common assumptions.

“Content has never been more in demand, nor more accessible through an abundance of new platforms. We bring a new perspective to investments in the space, but also communicate the needs of investors and the financial community to the corridors of the entertainment industry. We see ourselves as a bridge that is uniting both approaches and perspectives.”

Magna has invested more than $200M in businesses since 2009.Music Business Worldwide

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