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Klarna Co-founder Is Loading Up on Shares Ahead of Expected IPO

Victor Jacobsson has been buying shares through special purpose vehicles as its top VC sponsor debates the impact.

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Most companies keep things as buttoned up as possible ahead of a possible initial public offering. Klarna isn’t one of them.

The palace intrigue continues at the Swedish fintech startup, just weeks after tensions between two of the company’s co-founders became a full-blown boardroom dispute that sucked in Silicon Valley venture capital big timber Sequoia Capital, owner of a 22% stake in Klarna.

Trouble in Paradise

At the heart of the matter is an age-old Silicon Valley question: how powerful should a founder be — especially one who has left the company? Klarna was co-founded by three men, including current CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski and Victor Jacobsson, who left the company in 2012. But questions about Jacobsson’s role in the corporate governance structure have apparently stirred the pot. As the Financial Times reported over the weekend, Siematowski supports removing special voting rights for certain shareholders (read: the founders) as the company plans to clean up its governance ahead of an expected New York listing this fall. Jacobsson has been less vocal about the matter but has been boosting his holdings all along:

  • The FT reported that Jacobsson has bought up shares via special-purpose vehicles and may now have a stake that’s even above Siematowski’s 8%. Jacobsson had also been actively investing in Klarna using his “right of first refusal” to buy up Klarna shares in the secondary market.
  • The issue of Jacobsson’s influence at Klarna spilled over into infighting at Sequoia, which suddenly aborted a plan last month to try ousting Klarma’s chairman Michael Moritz, a Silicon Valley high-flier who just left Sequoia as a partner last summer. 

Careful What You Wish For: Amid the governance battle is the reality of Klarna’s valuation heading in the wrong direction. As a Bloomberg report noted, it was merely three years ago the company was a prized Sequoia holding with a $45.6 billion valuation. In 2022, the company raised additional financing at a relatively cut-rate valuation of $6.7 billion, as higher interest rates don’t align well with Klarna’s “buy now pay later” credit offering to consumers. Klarna is hoping it doesn’t have to pay later for failing to clean up its own mess today.