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Taxpayer-backed tech startup faces administration as investor writes off £79m stake

·2-min read
pollen events
pollen events

A taxpayer-backed ticketing tech start-up is braced to crash into administration and faces being broken up for parts.

Restructuring experts Kroll were on Tuesday night poised to be appointed as administrators of Pollen, which received backing from Rishi Sunak’s Future Fund, after sale talks collapsed.

The taxpayer is facing a multi-million pound loss on the collapse. The Government is an investor in Pollen through the Future Fund, which is not thought to be a preferred creditor. It was not clear what immediate value the administrators would be able to generate, if any, for current shareholders.

Investors were already braced to be wiped out. Sienna, one of Pollen’s biggest investors had already written down the value of its $93m (£79m) stake in the company to zero, The Telegraph can reveal.

It comes after founder Callum Negus-Fancey insisted to staff and media that reports Pollen was lined up for an administration were inaccurate.

The founder “strongly denied” claims the company could go into administration and said advisers continued work to find a buyer.

In an email to staff on Tuesday, Mr Negus-Fancey hit out at “speculation and inaccuracies” and said “we will be ready to announce what’s happening later today”.

However, a spokesman confirmed Kroll were due to be appointed to lead the administration. Sky News first reported the appointment.

Pollen said it had received interest for parts of its business, but a full sale is understood to have fallen through. The company had been working with Goldman Sachs on a sale.

A Kroll spokesman said it was seeking “further clarity” before accepting the appointment.

Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

The move creates further uncertainty for the company’s 500 staff, many of whom have not been paid for over a month.

Pollen lost £50m last year according to its latest accounts. In recent days, Pollen has started postponing or cancelling tickets for events due to be held in the coming weeks.

The start-up insisted there would be no disruption to customers or refunds, which have already been repeatedly delayed.

Pollen, founded by brothers Callum and Liam Negus-Fancy in 2012, had raised $250m from venture capital investors. Backers included Molten Ventures, Backed VC, Kindred, Northzone and Sienna.

Pollen has repeatedly missed payday for its 500 staff amid a cash crisis, with some employees saying they have not been paid since June. Public pressure on the company ramped up on Tuesday as more staff went public with their grievances.

After the pandemic, Pollen repeatedly delayed refunds for customers, while suppliers have complained about late payments, prompting a flood of social media complaints.

Drumcode, a festival in Malta, accused Pollen of “serious failings” and said it “no longer had confidence” could deliver the festival.