A new group of local investors stepped forward Tuesday with a proposal to repeat BottleRock in 2014 after settling the steep debts from the inaugural festival and putting together a solid business plan.
Referred to as GSF Partners, the group presented its vision for BottleRock 2014 to the Napa Valley Expo board and a packed boardroom audience on Tuesday afternoon.
To proceed, the group asked the Expo board to move forward with contract negotiations for a multiyear lease with GSF. Ideally they’d like to have a signed contract with the Expo by Dec. 18, the investors said.
BottleRock’s new backers warned that unless a deal can be struck to continue the festival in 2014, BR Festivals would have no choice but to file for bankruptcy, with creditors receiving little or no return on what they are owed.
The new investors are Napa entrepreneurs Jason Scoggins, David Graham and Joe Fischer. Fischer is known for his work with Copia and the Gasser Foundation in Napa. Scoggins is the co-founder of Jumpstart Automotive Media. Graham’s experience includes building, operating and investing in technology and e-commerce companies, according to one biography.
Some of the other changes the group proposed included shortening the event from five to three days, reducing noise levels, increasing ticket sales, eliminating most helicopter noise, moving the date from Mother’s Day weekend to the first weekend in May and ending concerts earlier.
They would also pay off vendors and workers who are owed, according to Graham, more than $8.5 million. This is $3 million greater than the amount of debt that the Register has reported.
The Expo would be paid 100 percent of what it is owed, or $310,938, Graham said. Other vendors would be paid between 50 and 90 percent of amounts due.
GSF Partners has a letter of intent to purchase the BottleRock brand, name and assets, said Graham.
Even with their plan, “BottleRock is still not a slam dunk,” Graham cautioned. “There are all kinds of obstacles to overcome.”
The BottleRock name “may be tarnished,” he said, but “we can make this happen.”
Central to GSF’s proposal was the request that the Expo not put the festival out for an official request for proposals, or RFP, that would allow others to make pitches.
According to BR Festivals’ attorney, Matt Eisenberg, a different concert promoter, Another Planet, has reportedly insisted that the Expo allow other companies to bid on hosting the event.
“BottleRock can only survive through a deal with a new investor (such as) GSF,” Eisenberg wrote. If such an agreement is not obtained, BR Festivals (the BottleRock LLC) “will have no choice but to promptly file for bankruptcy protection, in which case all creditors … will receive little to no return on their debt.”
After some discussion, the Expo board voted to move forward with contract negotiations with GSF but with the right to choose an RFP process.
The partners have also reached out to the largest BottleRock claimant, Saratoga Festival Investments, which filed a $3 million lawsuit this month alleging fraud against one early BottleRock investor, Jason Johnson.
The two investors behind Saratoga, Brad Buss and John Keller, are willing to be flexible and convert what they are owed into equity in GSF as long as the Expo signs a five-year agreement with the new partners, said Eisenberg.
The first BottleRock, while a huge success for attendees, suffered from a “glaring challenge,” Graham said. Namely, there were no senior finance people or senior management involved in the planning, he said.
“There was no CFO, no controller,” Graham said. “There were no direct cost controls, no accountability.” Those deficiencies would be fixed if GSF were to take over the festival, he said.
Before the vote, a number of BottleRock vendors and Expo neighbors spoke at the more than two-hour meeting. The majority supported the GSF group’s efforts.
“I’d like to see BottleRock continue,” said Dan de Polo, Darioush winery president.
“Work with these guys,” said Napan John Bonick.
“We like what BottleRock brought to downtown and Napa,” said Fred Corona. “We are behind these three gentlemen 150 percent.”
“My company put in $90,000 in capital improvements at the Expo and wants to get paid,” said Emil Meyers, the father of BottleRock co-founder Gabe Meyers. When the festival needed a cash infusion days before the May event was to begin, Emil Meyers said, he took $100,000 out of his wife’s retirement account for his son.
“I’m hoping these guys can save my marriage,” Emil Meyers said.
Not everyone was quite as supportive. One neighbor, whose name could not be heard, said BottleRock co-founder Bob Vogt and Meyers had “crammed” the event down their throats.
Teresa Vogt, wife of Bob Vogt, questioned the existence of the letter of intent to buy the BottleRock name and assets.
“We haven’t seen it,” she said of the letter of intent. “You can’t take over assets of BottleRock without signatures.” Vogt may have resigned from his role with BottleRock, but he still owns “37 percent of the company,” Teresa Vogt told Graham.
Another BottleRock vendor said he was owed an “astronomical amount of money. I cannot tell you how stressful it’s been. Do what’s right for the other vendors.”
BottleRock vendor and designer Richard Von Saal said the GSF team “are our only hope.”
“I’m owed a lot” for work done at the event, he said. “It almost sank my company over the past six months.”
Gabe Meyers, who launched BottleRock with Vogt, sat quietly in the back of the crowded room during the meeting.
“We made many mistakes,” he said to the board and crowd. “I made mistakes.”
Earlier in the day, Vogt announced that he had voluntarily resigned as manager of BottleRock’s LLC, BR Festivals.
“Bob Vogt and myself are no longer on speaking terms,” said Meyers. “He won’t return my calls.”