Clonie Gowen: All Lingerie and No Vest?

In my tenure as a consultant for commercial lawsuits, I read more than my fair share of initial complaints. Early on I realized these complaints often overbet the pot with farfetched claims, many of which can’t be supported by facts. So I wasn’t totally surprised by the far reaching claims of Clonie Gowen’s complaint against Full Tilt Poker et al. But I was surprised by what she was unable to piece together about the entities she was suing. And overall, I think her case may have one fatal flaw.

Whether Clonie understood it or not, I don’t think her ownership stake was vested. Time may or may not prove my assertion — I suspect this will be settled out of public view. But if I am correct, all that hype about Gowen’s savvy business acumen may go in the same tank as Sarah Palin’s executive experience. Although I will say this for Clonie: she won two major tournaments after a rift with her benefactors. We’ll see how well Palin can do now that the price of oil has dropped below the point that balances the Alaska state budget.

Clonie Gowen recently filed a lawsuit against Full Tilt Poker and a number of related companies. She also is suing Team Full Tilt, on the (flawed) assumption that they all received some form of ownership compensation that she was entitled to but failed to receive. She alleges that when she became a Team Full Tilt member, she was verbally promised 1% share of said enterprises but has never received any ownership disbursements. She is seeking $40 million in damages. Reading the claim and the thread on 2+2, I was entertained by the wild speculations.

Here’s either what I know to be true, or things that I’ve heard from so many different sources that I believe them to be true.

- Clonie is not the only member of Team Full Tilt not to have an agreement in writing.

- Some people invested in Full Tilt (or a related company) and received a piece of the business for it. Some of these people were Team Full Tilt Team Members. Many of them were not.

- Some of the people Clonie named did not have an ownership stake when she claims she was owed an ownership disbursement. She doesn’t list a number of owners or stakeholders that did receive disbursements.

-Some Team Full Tilt members didn’t invest in the company, but were promised a stake in a related company only after they were vested. I have some reason to believe that the vesting period was five years, but I don’t know that as a fact.

-Whether or not they had an interest or a vesting interest, many Team Full Tilt members, including Gowen, were backed in tournaments, were compensated for hourly play on the site, and received a monthly endorsement fee. These monthly fees varied in range, were generally in the five figure ballpark, but no where near what 2+2 posters believe them to be.

- I have never heard of anyone who was promised a stake in the range of companies that Gowen lists.

- For the first few years of operation, the company (or companies) reinvested the owners’ money back into the business. The understanding was that the company would ultimately go public and the owners would be reimbursed at that time.

- When the UIGEA passed, the company had to alter its IPO plans and as such the compensation plan for its owners.

- In 2007 the company started making ownership disbursements. At this time however, a number of the Team Full Tilt Team members were still not vested. It is my guess that Clonie, whether she knew it or not, was not vested.

- It is also my guess that Clonie was “let go” before she was vested. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the timing of Clonie’s separation as only now are they removing her from the site and other promotional materials.