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Dapper Labs CEO in the Hot Seat with Toxic Culture, Extravagant Tastes, and Court Battle

The Block | RT Watson | March 1, 2023

85 million Beverly Hills mansion Dapper Labs CEO Gharegozlou rented - Dapper Labs CEO in the Hot Seat with Toxic Culture, Extravagant Tastes, and Court Battle

Image: Zillow. $85 million Beverly Hills mansion Dapper Labs CEO Gharegozlou rented. Private jet travel and luxury accommodations were often marked down as "marketing" expenses.

Dapper Labs CEO and co-founder Roham Gharegozlou’s extravagant spending and habit of bullying employees, is said to have resulted in high employee turnover as the company struggled in a bear market.

  • Goham Gharegozlou, CEO and co-founder of Dapper Labs, rose to prominence along with the once wildly popular NFT collection his company created, NBA Top Shot. Gharegozlou forged partnerships with an impressive list of stars like Michael Jordan, Will Smith, Ashton Kutcher and the National Basketball League. Dapper’s investor list was equally impressive, with Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures and Samsung all giving the startup money. 
    • It only took about three and a half years for Gharegozlou to guide Dapper to a staggering $7.6 billion valuation, much of it realized during a bull run that saw cryptocurrencies and NFT prices achieve record highs.
    • 'Roped in by the highlife':  With NBA Top Shot generating buzz, Gharegozlou started receiving calls from famous entrepreneur celebrities and top CEOs, said one person familiar with the matter. Two people said he could land a meeting with practically anyone he wanted.
      • The CEO began to fly frequently on private jets that would generally cost between $60,000 and $100,000 per flight
      • Gharegozlou routinely rented mansions whenever he traveled, including once renting a 12-bedroom, $85 million mansion in Beverly Hills that can cost $300,000 a month

See:  NBA Top Shot NFT Case: Judge Says May Have to Register with Regulators

  • Behind the scenes many of his company’s employees lived in fear of what they called the CEO’s erratic nature. Several employees also found the first-time CEO’s spendthrift ways imprudent, especially when the NFT market began to sour, Top Shot sales plummeted and layoffs at Dapper became common. 
    • Inside Dapper, much of the company was in turmoil. Senior leader exits were becoming commonplace, and those employees left behind were tired and frustrated.  The CEO’s constant “bullying” and “public shaming” of employees only added to the fire, helping to stoke a toxic company culture. 
    • According to several former employees, the CEO’s frequent private jet travel, pursuit of celebrity partners and spending on luxurious accommodations, which at one point included a $85 million Beverly Hills mansion, had people questioning Gharegozlou’s priorities.
  • Layoffs: Last week Dapper laid off 20% of its full-time staff. Four months earlier, it parted ways with 22% of its employees. 
  • Court battle over securities laws:  Dapper also now finds itself in the midst of a court battle to determine whether the company violated securities laws by selling NBA Top Shot Moments NFTs without the standard registration and disclosures which is applied to other investment contracts.

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