Spark Networks (LOV): LONG, $3.81
Spark Networks—the owner of online dating platforms JDate and Christian Mingle-- has been written up
5 times on VIC (most recently by RJM59 in October, 2013), so I’ll minimize the overview/ background
information and get straight to the point. A good bit of the logic of RJM’s write-up still applies
(particularly with respect to potential exits)— I recommend it—meanwhile, the stock price has fallen
more than 50% and there’s now clear evidence of renewed profitability following last Thursday’s results.
o 2014 proxy battle resulted in new Board with significant share ownership
o BOD has replaced CEO Liberman—an internal hire with a legal background and visions of sugar
plums dancing in his head—with Michael Egan, formerly an exec with Internet Brands, Inc. and
Yahoo. Egan has brought in a new CFO (formerly with Square).
o New BOD and management team have drastically reduced marketing expenses and eliminated
land-grab, pie-in-the-sky growth strategy. New focus on profitability, maintaining/ polishing the
key asset (JDate).
o Reduction of marketing blitz expenditures uncovers the attractive economics of the core
dating business: 25 – 30% EBITDA margins.
o 4Q14 earnings show early results: $3.2 million in EBIT for the quarter.
o $82MM EV implies ~8X 2015E EV/ EBIT multiple assuming continued modest contraction in
subscriber base & increased non-marketing cash opex
o Upside tied to possible renewed growth in subscribers in 2H15 as the company enhances long-
neglected products and introduces high-margin add-ons tied to JDate and Christian Mingle
In 2014, long term shareholder Osmium Partners (~14% ownership as of most recent disclosure), along
with 402 Capital (~5%), led a successful effort to replace Spark’s BOD with its own slate. The new BOD
includes Osmium, 402, new CEO Egan and 4 outside directors. By virtue of Osmium and 402’s presence,
an owner’s mentality has clearly been installed at the Board level—a breath of fresh air after the
extremely light outright share ownership of the previous Board and management team.
New Management Team / New Game Plan
Previous management, in the estimation of many, had pie-in-the-sky notions with respect to the Mingle
segment (c. 57% of total revenue, with 141k members in 4Q2014). Management enunciated a top-
down vision of a future Mingle encompassing millions of members, based on shaky (crazy?)
(spurious adoption rate) X (total # of Christians in US) = thriving, 7-figure subscriber base
In an attempt to realize that vision, management poured over $120 million (again, significantly more
than the current enterprise value of the company…) into marketing expenses from 2011 to mid-2014,