Web Summit Co-Founders Call on Ousted CEO Cosgrave to Give Up His Stake

(Bloomberg) — The co-founders of Web Summit, Europe’s largest technology conference, are calling on ousted Chief Executive Officer Paddy Cosgrave to sell his majority stake in its parent company after a firestorm over his remarks on social media about Israel.

Most Read from Bloomberg

David Kelly and Daire Hickey, who are the only other shareholders in Web Summit’s holding company, wrote to the board arguing Cosgrave’s continued ownership puts the future of the business at risk, according to a person familiar with the matter. Kelly and Hickey asked the board to pursue all options, including a possible sale, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the letter was not public.

Cosgrave resigned last weekend after his posts on the Israel-Hamas war prompted high-profile investors and companies to withdraw from his flagship event, which is scheduled to start on Nov. 13 in Lisbon. Filings show that Cosgrave owns 81% of Manders Terrace Ltd., the firm that controls Web Summit.

A Web Summit spokesperson and lawyers representing Kelly and Hickey declined to comment, while Cosgrave did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kelly and Hickey have been embroiled in legal battles with Cosgrave for several years in Irish courts over the proceeds from their business and other matters.

In a blog post this week, Web Summit said Cosgrave also stepped down from its board. The remaining directors include three people who work for the conference and Nathan Hubbard, a former executive with Ticketmaster and Twitter. Hubbard didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Web Summit’s annual event in Lisbon draws some 70,000 technologists, politicians and celebrities. Several investors canceled their participation after Cosgrave criticized western support for Israel on X, formerly Twitter, earlier this month. They were followed by a wave of companies pulling out, including Google parent Alphabet Inc., Meta Platforms Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Intel Corp.

The scandal has extended to Cosgrave’s venture capital firm that is affiliated with the conference, Web Summit Ventures. Rob Frohwein, the former CEO of online lender Kabbage, told Bloomberg he was “disappointed” with Cosgrave’s comments and has begun the process to withdraw his money from the fund.

–With assistance from Lizette Chapman.

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

Previous post What would today’s college football rankings look like under old BCS formula?
Next post Black bean burgers, Mojo chicken and more