Justin Bieber is spearheading a new campaign to stop kids from texting and driving. He's doing this by taking a big stake in a crappy, flailing tech company that was run by a convicted felon until recently.
"It is tragic that almost on a daily basis there are reports of deaths and severe injuries caused by drivers who are texting and driving," Bieber said in a statement yesterday announcing his new partnership with the makers of the anti-texting software PhoneGuard. "We need to change the attitudes in our society toward texting and driving and I am making it one of my personal goals to make this happen."
Justin Bieber is so serious about curbing texting while driving that he's become part-owner of Options Media Group Holdings (OPMG), a floundering tech company out of Boca Raton, Florida which distributes the PhoneGuard technology. Earlier this year he was issued 121 million shares—16% of the company at the time—at about a penny a share, a deal referred to in the company's SEC filings as "The Bieber Agreement."
Bieber isn't be the first celebrity dude to invest in a tech company. But Boca Raton is no Silicon Valley, and OPMG is far from Facebook: In May, the former president of OPMG, Anthony Sasso, resigned after a local blog revealed he'd been convicted of racketeering in 2004 for his role in a car-theft ring. The CEO of OPMG, Scott Frohman, is also on the board of Money4Gold, Inc.—one of those places your great aunt sold all her jewelry to because she saw an ad on daytime TV.
Given OPMG doesn't have much experience in tech, it's no surprise that the company reported $10 million in losses last year and has been kept barely alive by a series of financing deals. At the time of its last yearly report, it had enough cash on hand to survive just 45 days. (It's since raised more money, but the company's most recent SEC filing still raised "substantial doubt" about its continuing ability to stay above water.)
OPMG's plan, it seems, is to get Bieber to pump its stock through his new texting-while-driving awareness campaign, along with tweets and Facebook posts about the same. But stock analyst Timothy Sykes, who has criticized OPMG on his blog, says that even with ties to Bieber, the company is screwed. In its quest for funding, OPMG has issued more than a billion shares, and any Bieber bump will be crashed by shareholders looking for a quick exit. (OPMG sicced the lawyers on Sykes when he blogged about his concerns.)
Alas, young Justin Bieber joins the likes of 50 Cent, Carmen Electra and Shaq in dubious penny financial entanglements with near-worthless penny stocks. 50 Cent pumped his H&H Imports investment openly on Twitter; Bieber's camp is a little more savvy, tying his penny stock fortunes to an awareness campaign. But OPMG stock is down a cent tonight, to .$05, even after Bieber's big announcement. Maybe the Jonas Brothers can short it
[Photos of Bieber via WENN. Image of OPMG's headquarters in Boca Raton via Google Maps]