Is this the guy you choose to buy your CBD from?
The mansions, the yachts. The parties—the models. How does Dan Bilzerian, the globe-trotting, cash-stacking, gun-toting, Instagram-boasting partying playboy do it?
Or, more to the point: How does he pay for it all?
According to a lawsuit filed this week, he doesn’t. Dan Bilzerian rents his house, and charges the rest of his six-figure lifestyle to a credit card that someone else pays off.
The lease on his home in the ritzy Los Angeles hills, for example, is $200,000 a month. Dan Bilzerian does not pay this rent.
The house and everything else—the models, the flights, the yachts, etc.—is charged to the corporate tab of Ignite International Ltd., the company Bilzerian founded and serves as CEO and majority shareholder, according to Curtis Heffernan, Ignite’s recently ousted former president.
Paying Dan Bilzerian’s $2.4 million annual rent, and paying for everything else Dan Bilzerian does, would be one explanation for how Ignite managed to lose a reported $50 million last year, as Forbes.com first reported.
And according to Heffernan’s suit, complaining about Dan Bilzerian’s addiction to spending company money—and objecting to various sleight-of-hand tricks that would hide this spending—are what got him fired.
Through its company counsel, Ignite did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement issued to TMZ, Bilzerian denied the allegations in Heffernan’s suit and vowed to counter-sue.
However, former Ignite employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing professional repercussions, confirmed much of what Heffernan claimed in his suit.
“Ignite pays for everything,” one said. “Models, events, yachts. Dan would just have it wrapped with the Ignite logo, and all of a sudden it was an Ignite expense and he would send them the bill.”
“Pools, trampolines,” the employee added, “his ‘personal events’ that had nothing to do with the business.”
Heffernan is seeking damages for defamation, wrongful termination, and also for being terminated in violation of California state whistleblower protection laws.
Heffernan, a former executive with Procter and Gamble, joined Ignite on March 18, 2019. At the time, the company was trying to find its niche. Ignite pivoted from a recreational cannabis brand, to a CBD company, to a company that was happy to try to put the Ignite goat-skull logo on just about anything.
Working out of a WeWork, Heffernan earned $275,000 a year as vice president of sales, according to his suit. He became acting president of Ignite in November, after the exit of his predecessor, Jim McCormick, a former tobacco executive.
Trouble arose in May 2020. Red flags were first raised by the accountants doing the books in preparation for Ignite International Brands’s annual report, required by the Canadian Stock Exchange, where shares of the company are publicly traded.
According to the suit, the accountants flagged $843,014.06 in company expenses that appeared to be “personal in nature.” These included payments for charges racked up on one of Dan Bilzerian’s credit cards: a half-million dollar yacht rental; a six-figure, two-night trip to London; a $65,000 “Four Elements Guns & Star Wars Set”; a $50,000 bed fame, a $75,000 paint-ball field, an $88,000 vault, “to name a few.”
The company also paid $26,000 to boost Bilzerian’s Instagram followers and paid for the travel expenses of the rotating cast of models that permanently accompany Bilzerian wherever he goes, the suit claims.
Heffernan was pressured by other company executives and members of Ignite’s board to sign off on the expenses as legitimate business charges, he claims. “Suspecting fraud,” he refused.
According to the suit, Heffernan tried to convince Bilzerian to at least dump the $200,000-a-month mansion—because, after all, the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting Southern California hard, and how can you have splashy marketing events with social distancing requirements?
“At that point,” the suit claims, Bilzerian “jumped in as Chairman of the Board and said: ‘I’m going to be doing some summer pool parties and will utilise the house.’” The next day, Bilzerian accused Heffernan of using drugs during a company meeting, according to the suit, and fired him on June 8, 2020.
The annual report showing Ignite’s staggering losses—and also showing that other companies involving Ignite shareholders or board members loaned the company cash to keep it afloat—was made public on the Canadian Stock Exchange’s website about a week later.
Heffernan did not respond to a call seeking comment. In a statement, his attorney, Tamara Freeze, said that her client looks forward to his day in court.
Will it get that far?
That may depend on what Dan Bilzerian, whom employees described as almost fanatically image conscious, decides he’s comfortable with the public knowing. Or how much balance is left on his credit card to pay for lawyers.
Excerpts Taken From Forbes.com