• April 17, 2024

Investors Challenge Juul Bailout

 Investors Challenge Juul Bailout
Image: vectortatu

A group of Juul Labs investors is challenging a November 2022 financial bailout by directors Nick Pritzker and Riaz Valani, alleging that the deal benefited insiders at the expense of other investors, reports The Wall Street Journal.

A pioneer in the vaping business, Juul Labs went from dominating the U.S. market to fighting for its survival in a short time. Following its initial success, the company came under regulatory scrutiny over its marketing practices. Thousands of lawsuits alleging the company contributed to an “epidemic” of underage vaping took a toll on the company’s finances.

After the Food and Drug Administration ordered its e-cigarettes off the market and a court stayed the order, Juul began exploring bankruptcy in June 2022.

To avoid bankruptcy, Pritzker and Valani in September 2022 refinanced a Juul term loan and later that fall loaned Juul more money to cover operating costs. Finally, the two directors, along with Juul co-founders James Monsees and Adam Bowen, backstopped a sweeping legal settlement and made an equity investment in Juul.

Juul, after approaching dozens of potential investors, closed a funding round in October 2023 that raised $1.27 billion. That sum included money that entities connected to Pritzker, Valani, and Juul’s two co-founders committed for Juul’s legal settlement and an additional $45 million from the same four investors.

Entities tied to Valani and Pritzker now own nearly half of Juul, while most other investors have had their stakes sharply diluted amid the rescue.

Affiliates of hedge fund D1 Capital Partners and two other investors sued Juul in October 2023 alleging that Pritzker and Valani “leveraged a distressed situation for their own personal gain to the detriment of Juul’s other stakeholders.”

Juul in 2024 aims to raise another $330 million as it fights to keep its existing products on the U.S. market and submits new vaping products for federal authorization.