The Spark Networks board have urged stockholders to stick by them, in an upcoming vote on who should lead the company forward.
Main investor Osmium recently turned activist, proposing a change to the company’s leadership.
The hedge fund own 14.1% of the company, and their proxy fight will come to a head when shareholders vote at Spark’s annual meeting in June.
In a letter to shareholders, Osmium said:
“Since the current CEO was appointed President on June 15, 2006, Spark’s market capitalization has declined by 25%, its enterprise value per paid subscriber has dropped by 43.1% and the Company has registered an uninspiring 2.8% compounded annualized growth rate in paid subscribers.
“These results stand in stark contrast to the industry. For example, Match.com’s subscriber base increased from 1.3 million subscribers in 2006 to 3.4 million in 2013, a 12.8% compounded annual growth rate off of a much higher base.
“InterActiveCorp subsidiary Match.com has effectively grown 4.5 times faster than Spark Networks over this time period.”
Osmium cite the company’s management – and the continued support and high salaries they have been given – as the main problem, and seek to replace the board with their own candidates, therefore effectively taking control of the company.
In March, Spark Networks saw a 19% drop in shares as the company predicted a tough 2014 for ChristianMingle and JDate.
And today, the current board of Spark Networks – including CEO Greg Liberman – have issued a letter to shareholders countering Osmium’s claims, and urging investors to stick by the board, and not believe the “dissident stockholder”.
“Over the past three years, since the appointment of Greg Liberman as CEO, we have set in motion a new strategic direction and successfully executed on a plan to build a second flagship brand, ChristianMingle, to accompany Spark’s already-iconic JDate brand.
“As a result of that plan, the Company’s stock has performed impressively on both an absolute and relative basis, and we believe the Company is now poised to accelerate its growth trajectory.”
They say their longterm plan, and its progress, would be completely halted by Osmium’s proposed slate of directors.
The board say Liberman has overseen a 57% increase in the company’s stock price, and 64% increase in total paid subscribers.
They say Spark’s enterprise value has increased by 104%, from $51.6m in 2011, to $105m in 2014.
In addition to this, they have created a second “iconic, category-leading brand” in Christian Mingle.
They also claim that the time period Osmium has chosen to determine the board’s success gives a “highly inaccurate portrait of the company’s current leadership”.
“Osmium’s eight-year time period conveniently starts while the Company was in the middle of a turn-around that included the divestiture of American Singles, the Company’s undifferentiated, mass market dating business — a choice by Osmium that we believe results in intentionally distorted stock prices, revenues and subscriber numbers from when Spark was just starting to strategically reduce its investment in that non-core business.”
The company, who own JDate and ChristianMingle, urge shareholders not to choose Osmium’s “hand-picked, untried and unproven nominees”, but rather stick with their current board who have a firm plan in action, and are on the verge of significantly accelerating the company’s growth.
The vote will take place at Spark’s annual meeting of stockholders on the 18th June.
Read the letter here.