More bad news from the slave galley otherwise known as FriendFinder Networks, the renamed Penthouse publisher whose Adult FriendFinder site's ads grace numerous porn sites. The company lost its top sales performer, Greg Chan, to World NetMedia, proprietor of surging competitor Fling.com. He probably wasn't very happy working with marketing VP Charlyn McNamara. To get a sense of McNamara's management style, consider the case of senior sales veteran Sondra Moore: Moore walked into McNarama's office to ask for more challenging work. Most bosses reward employees who show initiative and a willingness to take on more responsibility. McNamara's response? She fired Moore. And it gets worse from there.COO Anthony Previte, after threatening to fire everyone in operations, has still not been able to hire more engineers or systems administrators. And the design team has lost all respect for their manager, director of user experience Shawn Whitfield, who's made it clear that anyone who questions his authority will be let go. But hey, the employees that stick around are going to get rich when FriendFinder Networks finally goes public, right? Not so much. Non-executive employees were each granted 10,000 options, regardless of seniority. And they come with a five-year vesting period — one year more than is typical. After the departure of founder Andrew Conru, it's been nothing but petty politics among executives and upper management, according to our source, who added, "You never know who you can trust. That's the whole [Adult FriendFinder] attitude: Trust nobody." It sounds like Penthouse inherited a bad situation that's gotten even more toxic since it bought the company.
There goes a perfectly entertaining rumor: Adult FriendFinder founder Andrew Conru has written in to deny that he's involved with a woman named Lois, as commenter rumourone had claimed. Amusingly, rumourone had gone to some trouble in constructing the fantasy, picking up factual bits like Conru's interest in fish farming. The part that Conru didn't confirm or deny: That he's planning to leave Adult FriendFinder, now owned by Penthouse, very soon.
Ubiquitous, open-doored singles' site Adult Friendfinder promises "hot sex tonight!" — but for whom, with whom? A free membership lets you take a peek. To make actual contact, you have to pay up. What women pay to have no-strings-attached sex? For all the promise of local singles available, the only women I know who use AFF have pretty specifically kinky tastes, and they don't spend a lot of time perfecting their profiles (these photos? you won't find most of these women active on the site). One of my ladyfriends who enjoys licking milk from a saucer ("like a kitten!") has found a playmate on AFF. A former dominatrix friend of mine just likens her cruising the site to "shopping for men." When it comes to getting sex on demand, spending $15 on private message access to a guy rather than waiting for him to spring for dinner just seems easier.
While Richard Bottoms's sexual discrimination case against Penthouse Media Group continues, the Palo Alto man angry with his dismissal from the company tells us he's now planing a new round of suits against the company, seeking $1 in damages. In an email to Penthouse management announcing his plans to sue, Bottoms alleged that company developers were instructed to copy eHarmony.com when building sites Alt.com and Bondage.com.
Despite such perks as "all the porn you can watch if you've a mind to," a former employee of Adult FriendFinder, the user-generated porn site now owned by Penthouse, plans to sue the company. He says the company fired him because of "his activism on behalf of gay, lesbian, and other alternative lifestyle folk." The ex-employee says he isn't gay himself, but that he "pissed off" FriendFinder president Rob Brackett by criticizing the company for not serving the needs of "the alternative lifestyle community." Also, he says FriendFinder's office isn't wheelchair accessible. So there. For more such rants, this ex-employee has set up a blog called 445shermanesque, titled for FriendFinder's street address in Palo Alto. Until Craigslist took it down, he'd also posted an ad soliciting stories from other ex-employees who had been "Rode Hard and Put Away Wet." A screenshot of the pulled ad is below, in case you'd like to participate in the fun.
Whatever happened to Andrew Conru, the porn baron of Palo Alto? After selling Various Inc., the parent company of X-rated singles site Adult FriendFinder, to Penthouse for $500 million in December, he's getting his personal life in order, commenter rumourone informs us. He's reportedly still working at Various, but planning his departure. (Will Penthouse disclose this fact when it files to go public, largely on the strength of Conru's Web businesses?) Also, he's engaged to a "devout Lutheran" named Lois. Ironic, given his porn profiteering? Hardly. Conru also launched — and sold along with FriendFinder — a religious social network, BigChurch.com, where he supposedly met Lois. Update: Conru has written in to deny the Lois story. The full Conru tale from rumourone follows:
Financier and CEO Marc Bell plans to take Penthouse Media Group public in a $250 million IPO. If investors take the bait, it'll likely be on the strength of Adult FriendFinder and the rest of the Web properties Penthouse bought from Andrew Conru last December for $500 million. After the acquisition, Penthouse projected its 2007 revenues would reach $340 million — most of that from Adult FriendFinder. Some of the proceeds from the IPO, if it succeeds, will go to pay off debt from the acquisition.
Right before Penthouse acquired Andrew Conru's Adult FriendFinder for $500 million, a rumor spread that FriendFinder was making offers itself to buy smaller porn sites. Sources told Adult Entertainment Today AFF made offers on two sites that might not have large profits but "have attracted media attention and large numbers of regular visitors." Will the rollup strategy continue under Penthouse, or bring FriendFinder's nascent buying spree to an end? Let us know if Conru has made you an offer you can't refuse.
Congratulations, Andrew Conru: Danni Ashe is now your coworker. As the porn-magazine business quietly biodegrades in the ashbin of history, the founder of Adult FriendFinder has sold his company, Various Inc., to Penthouse for $500 million. This despite his earlier denials. The price actually seems low, considering Various's projected revenues this year of $340 million. But the porn business has always suffered from a market discount, as distaste thins the ranks of willing investors. FriendFinder's troubles with the Federal Trade Commission, settled one day before the sale was closed last Friday, can't have helped. What's next for Adult FriendFinder's new owner?
"It would be sweet if it were true," demurred porn baron Andrew Conru, when we asked if the Palo Alto porn baron had sold FriendFinder Inc., the parent company of porn-laden classifieds site Adult FriendFinder. Sweet indeed, then. Multiple sources have told us Various was sold on Friday, and one confirms that Penthouse is the buyer. A tipster says that there's an all-hands meeting today at 2 p.m. to inform employees of "exciting times ahead for all." Anyone want to head down to the Cinemark theater in Palo Alto to find out and tell us? After the jump, the email to employees.
Coined by R. Stevens in his webcomic Diesel Sweeties, "social nerdwanking" means lording your social-network superiority over others, which is secretly the only reason you bother with Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Orkut, and every other social network. Except your legitimate if fruitless use of Adult FriendFinder.
Andrew Conru, the porn baron of Palo Alto, is denying rumors that he has sold either his company, Various Inc., or its best-known property, Adult FriendFinder. "We haven't sold anything," he said. "It would be sweet if it were true." Conru has never raised outside money for his site and still owns 90 percent of Various. That means that any sale is really his call. But then there's this. "We're focusing on the growth of the company," Conru said. Here's a tip: Whenever you hear a CEO saying something as anodyne and meaningless like that, expect a sale any minute. TechCrunch now says Penthouse might be the buyer, for $500 million. Heard anything more? Let us know.
Andrew Conru is the accidental porn baron, the mild-mannered geek who found himself running a massive X-rated classifieds website, Adult FriendFinder, from sedate Palo Alto. Rumor has it that he just sold the site, one of his many properties, for $100 million. Michael Arrington reports that he may have sold his company, Various Inc., for $1 billion. A nice headline, but we doubt it. What Conru has said in the past is that he wants to take Various public. The Adult FriendFinder site, however, has been a sticking point for investment bankers, who don't want to try to sell porn to the investing public. For Conru's ambitions, divesting Adult FriendFinder would make perfect sense, since the rest of Various — which includes much more respectable sites like BigChurch — could then IPO to cash in on the social-networking craze.