Friday, August 22, 2014

Angie's List Lays Off 97 From Its Sales Force

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Angie’s List laid off 97 members of its sales force team today.

The largest reduction, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, will come from the Big Deal sales team.

The online review site reported a second-quarter loss of $18.4 million July 23 amid rising expenses.

This comes only 15 months after Indianapolis handed out $4.6 million in incentives to stay in downtown Indianapolis.  At the time, Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana discussed an IBJ investigative piece on curious real estate transfers that took place:
This has to be one of the more unusual investigative pieces done by one of the Indianapolis Business Journal's excellent reporters. The latest edition of the IBJ features a front-page story by Chris O'Malley titled, "Oesterle sells land, reaping millions, Angie's List $6.3 million price exceeded assessed value." It's quite the case of self-dealing by a man the publication has followed throughout his business career and upon whom it has heaped plenty of glowing praise and adoration. Some critics would argue that the publication has been a bit too generous in its coverage of Oesterle and the business he co-founded with Angie Hicks because of his close relationship with its chairman and owner, Mickey Maurer, who also sits on the board of directors of Angie's List. That's why the scathing story in today's edition comes as such a surprise.

O'Malley explains how Oesterle formed a separate company, Henry Amalgamated, in which he owns a 70% stake, to acquire nearly 40 parcels of property on the city's near eastside. Karl Northern owns the minority interest. That company, in turn, leased their property at premium lease rates to Angie's List for its expanding headquarters and operations. The combined assessed value of the properties owned by Henry Amalgamated is just $2.625 million; however, Angie's List is acquiring the properties from their CEO's company for $6.25 million. Oesterle defends the sale, claiming that no cash is exchanging hands, at least cash that came from his hands. That's because Mayor Greg Ballard, who has received large campaign contributions from Oesterle, was very generous with your tax dollars and gave Oesterle's company $4.6 million in incentives from the downtown TIF district after the company pledged to keep its headquarters in downtown rather than relocating to the suburbs. Oesterle allowed the value of those incentives to go to Angie's List as part of the sale.
The parcels Henry Amalgamated bought with city incentives, mostly on the western edge of Angie's campus, were not sold to Angie's at a profit, Oesterle told the IBJ. he said those parcels were simply transferred to Angie's from Henry Amalgamated, with no money exchanged. Essentially, then, the value of city incentives went to the company itself.
"It was almost four blocks of real estate. I thing [Angie's] got a very good deal," said Oesterle, prefacing his comments by saying he was speaking on behalf of Henry Amalgamated and not Angie's List.
Just how good the deal was for Oesterle's Henry Amalgamated is hard to say.
No one involved in the transaction would say how much Henry paid for older parcels, those bought without city incentives....

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