Elliot J Dabah, CEO of NYC-based Merchants Cash Partners, LLC, recently passed away. Known throughout the merchant financing industry, friends and colleagues began collecting kind words to reflect on his life to be able to share them here.
Elliot Ashkenazie, his business partner and best friend, said “Elliot Dabah would step up and help anyone in need whether that be his own employee, another ISO, or a complete stranger on the street. He didn’t keep any secrets so he would have an advantage over others, he simply paid it forward and helped the community as a whole benefit from it. Merchants Cash Partners will work tirelessly to carry on his legacy and his values.”
“Elliot Dabah was the heartbeat of the Financial District and he was an integrated part of my life, both professional and personal,” said Gigi Russo. “Not only did Elliot and I live three blocks from each other, but I first had the privilege and pleasure of meeting him while I was working for deBanked, at CONNECT San Diego. We quickly became close friends. He truly never took advantage of our tight knit friendship. His professional support was a reflection of his character— a respectable person that respected his family, friends and business associates. Elliot wanted everyone to succeed. He believed that friends and business colleagues should support one another to build a viable network.”
Tom Dool of Power Funding, said “Of all of the offices I’ve ever visited, I can honestly say that no other partner of mine compares to Merchants Cash Partners. From the moment I met both Elliots, they were inviting. I could tell right away that they had a special bond of shared enthusiasm, honesty, generosity, thoughtful, caring people.” He adds, “Elliot [Dabah] lived life with such a genuine love for people and getting to know people, discussing higher level ideas, sharing feelings. He was one of the best and I’ll never forget him.”
“Elliot was one of the most welcoming people I had the pleasure of knowing,” says Colt Kucker of Libertas Funding, “and always tried helping out whether it be a customer, myself, or anybody in need. He was a hard worker and will truly be missed by all he came across.”
Justin Friedman of Enova SMB, described Dabah, “Smart, strategic, urgent, generous and wise are a few words to describe Elliot. He was universally popular and a known professional in our industry, which isn’t common to come by. He cared about his customers and business relationships. Elliot’s presence in alternative lending was a positive one and he will be remembered for exactly that.”
Ben Lugassy of SOS Capital states that he was “Always smiling and enthusiastic, Elliot was the embodiment of joyful. A friend with tremendous respect and gratitude, he will always be remembered and in our prayers.”
Paul Boxer of Velocity Capital Group added, “Every-time I met Elliot he had the largest smile, always happy to talk shop and discuss the industry. He was very knowledgeable and had a wealth of information, he will surely be missed.”
Ken Peng of Elevate Funding recounts that Elliot, “was always great to work with. He was always very friendly and understanding when we did review any of his files. He will be missed.”
Gigi Russo, who was instrumental in putting this tribute together, further added that Elliot “treated everyone he came into contact with as a friend.” He has “a sincere, dignified, and affable reputation that will follow him after his passing. He will surely be remembered for supporting his colleagues, clients, business acquaintances, and network. The legacy Elliot has left behind is simple: Respect one another. Support one another. Honesty and hard work are necessities of success.”
Part of Elliot’s legacy is the company he built. Merchants Cash Partners, despite the pandemic, was so successful this year that it outgrew its office space.
“Elliot had a revolutionary style of making this industry a community,” says his partner Ashkenazie. “He referred clients and prospects alike to small firms and national firms, expecting nothing in return.”
Coincidence would have it that a photo of Elliot at a deBanked event was often used in event marketing promotions. As to how that picture came to be used so prominently, deBanked President Sean Murray said that “Elliot embodied the community we were trying to portray. A nice young business professional who radiated positive energy. Who is part of this industry? It’s guys like Elliot. That’s what we wanted everyone to know.
“Elliot totally noticed how often we were sharing his photo,” Murray said. “He told me that he thought that was pretty cool.”
Neuberger Berman, an investment manager with $374B under management, is acquiring a 15% stake in IOU Financial, a small business lender. As part of the deal, one of the firm’s funds has agreed to purchase up to $150M a year of IOU’s loans over the next two years.
“This investment by a Neuberger Berman managed fund represents a strong vote of confidence in the fundamental, long-term value of our business, and is a testament to IOU’s loan origination and servicing capabilities in addition to its capital markets capabilities” said Phil Marleau, CEO of IOU, in a public statement.
Additionally, Neil Wolfson, a former board member to rival OnDeck, is joining IOU’s board of directors.
This month, Franklin Capital Group was acquired by Wing Lake Capital Partners with the help of Rocky Mountain Bank. Franklin Capital will change its name and add funding capability- but the entire team will stay on. CEO Shaya Baum was happy to announce the deal, explaining that the firm would use acquisition funds to create more deals and continue to grow.
“It gives us the ability to fund many deals that are outside of our box previously,” Baum said. “We’re going to be launching a couple of sister funds alongside what we currently have and scale the business.”
Franklin Capital was founded in 2012 as an equity fund for companies in financial trouble during, before, or post-bankruptcy. The firm discovered a market for refinancing MCA advances, finding companies that should have never obtained cash advances in the first place. Franklin Capital began offering a tailored debt product to refinance cash advances and offer a pathway to larger, more traditional bank loans.
“We buy out the cash advance deals,” Baum said. “In fact, most if not all of our deals come from brokers in the cash advance industry saying ‘Hey can you get us out of these deals?'”
The firm services a capital class all its own: from $500k to $10 million. Baum noted that most alternative lenders focus on smaller amounts or $25 million+ traditional amounts, and his firm offers a middle ground.
“There is no one in between to provide a more traditional type loan to a borrower that should not be in a cash advance or is in default on their cash advances,” Baum said. “We’re really the outlet for them from the cash advance world into traditional financing.”
Baum further said that his firm had seen a continually growing demand for capital this year.
“I know the cash advance companies have gotten killed, but we’ve actually had the opposite problem,” Baum said. “We don’t do one-off restaurant [advances.] We’re dealing with companies that are larger, more established: they’ve all pivoted into industries that have grown during this period of time.”
DailyFunder, the small business finance forum founded by Sean Murray in 2012, continues to be the leading online community for the industry, according to a recent announcement. The forum recently surpassed 10,000 registered members, in addition to logging more than 2 million page views just in 2020 so far.
“The forum has attracted well over a million visitors since inception and users have historically spent longer than 10 minutes on the site in any given session on average,” Murray said.
deBanked’s parent company fully acquired DailyFunder earlier this year. The announcement was featured prominently in deBanked’s January/February 2020 magazine issue. In it, Murray renewed the website’s objective:
“The mission will be to create a great forum for those involved in day-to-day dealmaking,” he said in a Q&A. “How can we provide a platform that enables those in the industry to make more money? That’s the way I look at it. I think if we can provide that type of value, success will follow.”
After nearly a century of quintessential Manhatten hospitality, the Roosevelt Hotel is closing by the end of the month, sources say. A relic of classic New York that survived the Great Depression, WWII, and Broker Fair 2019, the hotel is officially shutting down for good after suffering pandemic related losses, a spokesperson said.
“Due to the current, unprecedented environment and the continued uncertain impact from COVID-19, the owners of The Roosevelt Hotel have made the difficult decision to close the hotel, and the associates were notified this week,” the Spokesperson told CNN reporters Friday. “The iconic hotel, along with most of New York City, has experienced very low demand, and as a result, the hotel will cease operations before the end of the year. There are currently no plans for the building beyond the scheduled closing.”
The hotel will be added to the growing list of staple New York City businesses that have closed as a result of COVID. The Roosevelt was named and built to honor the United States’ 26th president and it opened its doors on September 22, 1924. Constructed during Prohibition, the building began the modern trend of featuring designer store windows on the street front.
Appearing as a backdrop for dozens of Hollywood blockbusters like Boiler Room, Malcolm X, and The Irishman, the hotel was iconic. The New Year’s Eve tradition of singing “Auld Lang Syne” was born at the Roosevelt in 1929 when Guy Lombardo and his orchestra broadcast the song live over the radio.
The building was purchased by the limited investment branch of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) in 1999.
In July, government officials and PIA executives debated the hotel’s future, some hoping rumors that President Trump would purchase the property were true. The initial plan was to sell or renovate the city block to create office space, thought to be far more lucrative than the hotel business in 2019. Work-from-home orders threw a wrench into the cogs, and the hotel kept losing money: no one wanted the traditional New York experience during a pandemic.
Posting a loss during this year has become expected of the hospitality industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospitality lost 7.5 million jobs due to shutdowns and travel restrictions in April. CNN reported that only half as many jobs had been added back. In September, NYC hotels were below 40% occupancy.
The decision to ultimately close The Roosevelt might also come from trouble in PIA’s airline business. After the crash of PIA flight 8303 that killed 97 people in Havelian, Pakistan, European and US regulators banned flights from PIA for six months. After the crash, nearly one-third of airplane licenses in Pakistan were found to be fraudulent or forged, further straining the organization’s ability to recover.
Though this may have contributed to The Roosevelt’s closure, the pandemic sealed the deal. According to a study by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, New York has 2,336 hotels statewide that have lost 43,014 jobs this year.
Without further congressional aid, 1,565 hotels might close: the AHLA found that 74% of overall US hotels say more layoffs are coming if the industry doesn’t get additional federal assistance. But successful talks for more aid in the House and Senate are increasingly unlikely due to this election year’s heightened partisanship.
NYC is losing yet another historical business, as the way of life and all things we have come to expect from the big apple struggle to survive. As a destination venue, The Roosevelt was also dear to deBanked. It was the home of Broker Fair 2019, where Sean Murray spoke in the same ballroom that Michel Douglas (as Gorden Gekko) made the famous “Greed is Good” speech as part of the 1987 film Wall Street. Murray made a similar speech but rewrote it to fit the industry that had gathered. “Funding small business, for lack of a better phrase, is good,” he said on stage to an audience of 700 people.
Unfortunately, it was The Roosevelt that ultimately needed funding and didn’t get it.
The drama surrounding what OnDeck allegedly did or did not disclose to shareholders about the Enova merger presumably came to an end on Wednesday. 38 million voting shares approved the deal while less than half a million voted against it.
However, shareholders sent a message by voting against “the compensation that may be paid or become payable to the Company’s named executive officers that is based on or otherwise relates to the merger.”
OnDeck has said that the merger is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2020.
After OnDeck announced its planned merger with Enova, it was sued nine different times (See here and here) by shareholders that accused the company’s Board of Directors that they had failed to disclose material information about the deal.
OnDeck formally responded on Monday, September 28th, wherein they disclosed that plaintiffs in all of those actions had agreed to dismiss their claims in light of the release of this supplemental information:
The Company and Enova believe that the claims asserted in the Actions are without merit and that no supplemental disclosures are required under applicable law. However, in an effort to put the claims that were or could have been asserted to rest, to avoid nuisance, minimize costs and avoid potential transaction delays, and without admitting any liability or wrongdoing, the Company has determined to voluntarily supplement the Proxy Statement/Prospectus as described in this Current Report on Form 8-K to address claims asserted in the Actions, and the plaintiffs in the Actions have agreed to voluntarily dismiss the Actions in light of, among other things, this supplemental disclosure. Nothing in this Current Report on Form 8-K shall be deemed an admission of the legal necessity or materiality of any of the disclosures set forth herein. To the contrary, the Company and the other defendants specifically deny all allegations in the Actions that any additional disclosure was or is required and expressly maintain that, to the extent applicable, they have complied with their respective legal obligations.
OnDeck first re-explained its background situation leading up to the Enova deal:
Starting in April 2020, OnDeck management commenced a review of potential financing options to secure additional liquidity and potentially replace the Corporate Line Facility and began contacting potential sources of alternative financing, including mezzanine debt. OnDeck contacted, or was contacted by, more than ten potential sources of mezzanine or alternative financing, and received pricing indications from four sources. The interest rates offered by those alternative financing sources ranged from 1-month LIBOR plus 900 basis points to 1,700 basis points (in addition to an upfront fee) and all but one required a significantly dilutive equity component. The one proposal that did not include an equity component was at an interest rate of 1-month LIBOR plus 1,400 basis points to 1,700 basis points. Based on the initial term sheets proposed, OnDeck engaged in negotiations with each of the four potential sources of alternative financing. As these negotiations progressed and COVID-19’s impact on the macro economy and OnDeck’s loan portfolio intensified, two of the four potential sources of alternative financing ceased to actively participate in negotiations. Discussions with the final two potential sources of alternative financing remained ongoing through the time that OnDeck and Enova entered into the merger agreement. Throughout the Process, OnDeck management reported the status of such negotiations on a frequent and ongoing basis to the OnDeck Board for its deliberation in the context of OnDeck’s standalone plan, and the OnDeck Board considered the significant uncertainty of being able to reach agreement on alternative financing in its decision to enter into the merger agreement.
Of particular contention in the deal were OnDeck’s financial projections, prepared to estimate OnDeck’s trajectory as an independent entity. Shareholders complained that there were two sets of books and that they only got to see one. The other set, dubbed Scenario 1, had been used to shop OnDeck around to other suitors. OnDeck published both sets in their supplemental materials on Monday.
The difference is stark. Originally disclosed to shareholders was a projected cumulative net loss of $20.4 million through the end of 2024. The other set of projections, Scenario 1, state a cumulative net income of $33.5 million over the same time period, a difference of over $50 million.
The original predicted a 2021 net loss of $19.4 million while Scenario 1 predicted a net income of $14.3 million.
One reason offered for selecting the less optimistic of the two is that OnDeck’s management determined that loan originations were trending below both sets of projections as of July 12th. OnDeck announced the Enova deal about two weeks later.
Shareholders will cast their votes on the merger on October 7th. OnDeck’s Board “unanimously recommends” that they vote in favor of the proposed merger with Enova.