Who Do Young Entrepreneurs Look Up To? Elon Musk

Steve Jobs is dead, Mark Zuckerberg is tarnished. For the next generation of startup founders, the contributions of Bill Gates feel like ancient history.

In middle school, Kenan Saleh saw the movie The Social Network, the dramatized account of the early days of Facebook. He decided, right then and there, that he would one day start a company of his own. “It was the first movie I’d seen that showed that you could be young and still be the most successful person in the room,” he says. “I definitely emulated Mark Zuckerberg in some ways.”

In true Zuckerbergian fashion, Saleh did start a company out of his dorm room at the University of Pennsylvania. He raised $500,000 as he crammed for finals and then sold the company to Lyft in 2019, the year he graduated. Along the way, Saleh realized he needed a new role model. He no longer wanted to be like Zuckerberg, who by then had become ensnared in a series of scandals.

Plenty of people liked Steve Jobs, but Jobs was dead, and reading his biography was about as appealing as “reading a history book.” Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Bill Gates were still alive, but their contributions to Silicon Valley already felt like ancient history. Saleh wanted a hero who was making history now.

Young people love to idolize their predecessors. Jobs was Silicon Valley’s idol of choice for decades, but to the next generation of startup founders, his legacy feels about as old as Web 1.0. Boy geniuses like Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel, who became billionaires by the time they were 25, have fallen out of favor.

So have tech oligarchs like Jeff Bezos. “We don’t look up to these fools,” says Marc Baghadjian, the 22-year-old founder of a dating startup. “Just because you’re a billionaire doesn’t mean you’re positively effecting change.”

Instead, both Baghadjian and Saleh now worship Elon Musk, whom they see as a billionaire on an ethical mission. “He’s shown that you can do the best thing for the world and reap the benefits at the same time,” says Saleh, who started watching videos of Musk while he was in college.

WIRED asked more than a dozen young startup founders between the ages of 15 and 30 who inspires them. More than half brought up Musk. Others mentioned techno-optimists like Sam Altman and Patrick Collison, who seem to believe that technology can solve the world’s biggest problems, or entrepreneur-philanthropists with lesser-known startups.

None of them had read books about the history of Apple, Google, or Amazon; they said they were more inspired by forward-looking companies trying to solve the world’s biggest problems.

Olav Sorenson, who has taught entrepreneurship at UCLA and at Yale, says his students tend to admire people who have been “successful without selling out.” Some cite Seth Goldman—the founder of Honest Tea, who now chairs the board of Beyond Meat—as one source of inspiration because “he has focused his energy on investing in and supporting businesses with an ethical mission,” Sorenson says.

“This generation is looking at all of the issues and trying to say, ‘How can we start to be part of the solution to the problems that the older generation created for us?’” says Lori Rosenkopf, vice dean of entrepreneurship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Rosenkopf says that in the last few years, she’s noticed a shift in the way students talk about entrepreneurship—not just as a career alternative to banking or consulting, but as a way to start ventures with “a much greater social perspective.”

For many young entrepreneurs, Musk is the prime example of this mindset. “Elon Musk is literally picking up the tab for the mistakes that other generations have made,” says Baghadjian, who read Ashlee Vance’s biography of Musk in high school and has considered him a hero ever since.

Baghadjian says that while companies like Amazon and Apple have produced big innovations, Musk’s work with electric vehicles and solar energy was much more important.

Other young people were inspired by the trope of the startup founder who struggles on the way to success. One mentioned Musk sleeping on the floor in the Tesla headquarters, which they said showed grit. A few also mentioned the tale of Airbnb founder Brian Chesky, who maxed out his credit cards and subsisted on ramen noodles in the startup’s early days.

“There’s not a lot of glamour when you’re starting out,” says Pranjali Awasthi, who is 15 and is working on a stealth startup while she finishes high school online. Awasthi cited Musk and Altman as her heroes. But she also wished for more role models who look like her, a young woman of color. She says she was inspired to launch her startup in high school after she read about Laura Deming, who had started working on her own venture fund when she was 16.

A historic lack of diversity among high-profile entrepreneurs has left some young people without founder idols. “A lot of the founders people worshiped before have been straight, white men,” says Josh Yang, who is 27 and graduated from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business last year.

Women make up about 10 percent of tech CEOs, according to a 2021 report from the nonprofit AnitaB.org, and there are still startlingly few Black and Latinx CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. Yang, who identifies as a queer Asian man, doesn’t put much stock in the celebrities of the tech world. “I’m forging my own path,” he says.

So is Andrew Sun, an 18-year-old who recently launched a microfinance startup. He credits a high school teacher for getting him into entrepreneurship, rather than a celebrity CEO like Musk. “I don’t really have any desire to become a celebrity,” he says. “I want to be an entrepreneur who makes a substantial positive impact on our world.”

Arielle Pardes head shot - Wired

By:

Arielle Pardes is a senior writer at WIRED, where she works on stories about our relationship to our technology. Previously she was a senior editor for VICE. She is an alumna of the University of Pennsylvania and lives in San Francisco.

Source: Who Do Young Entrepreneurs Look Up To? Elon Musk | WIRED

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How America’s Richest People Can Access Billions Without Selling Their Stock

On Saturday, Elon Musk promised to sell 10% of his Tesla stake after 58% of people voted in a Twitter poll shared by the Tesla CEO. Yesterday, Musk began to follow through, exercising about 2.15 million Tesla stock options and selling shares to cover the taxes he owed as a result. Prior to this week, he has only ever sold Tesla shares twice—in 2010 and 2016—for pre-tax proceeds of $617 million ($593 million of that went to cover taxes he owed on options). Tesla’s stock has risen over 13,000% since his last sale, and Musk is now worth an estimated $281 billion (based on Wednesday’s closing price).

When the world’s richest man wants cash, he can simply borrow money by putting up—or pledging—some of his Tesla shares as collateral for lines of credit, instead of selling shares and paying capital gains taxes. These pledged shares serve as an evergreen credit facility, giving Musk access to cash when he needs it. Musk currently has pledged 88.3 million Tesla shares, nearly 36.2% of his overall stake (excluding options), as of Wednesday worth more than $94 billion.

Musk is one of 32 billionaires identified in the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans to be pledging public stock of companies listed on the NYSE or Nasdaq exchanges as collateral for current or potential lines of credit, as disclosed in company filings. Other pledgers include fellow mega-pledger Oracle chairman Larry Ellison, Walmart heir Jim Walton, and private equity’s richest person, Stephen Schwarzman. (Three others pledged shares of foreign companies are not included in this report.)

Across all companies listed on the NYSE and Nasdaq exchanges, there are 560 executive officers and directors and 5%+ shareholders currently pledging shares; the size of the average pledge is $427 million and the aggregate value of these pledged shares is $239 billion, according to a report from Audit Analytics, an independent provider of audit, regulatory and disclosure intelligence. Within this larger group, Forbes 400 members do most of the pledging—value wise, that is. Musk’s Tesla pledge alone is 47% of that aggregate pledged share value. Removing the extreme outlier Musk, the remaining 31 Forbes 400 members account for 56% of that figure. (Data for this report were calculated Nov. 5; Tesla shares are down nearly 13% since then).


“At current interest and tax rates, it is far cheaper to borrow against the value of one’s shares than to sell them and pay taxes on the gains.”


Information on companies’ pledging policies—found in annual proxy statements—-offer a window into the murky world of billionaire borrowing. The topic entered the national microscope in June after ProPublica’s report on leaked IRS data showed that several of the richest people paid nothing in federal income taxes in certain years. Last month, a proposed wealth tax from Senate Democrat Ron Wyden failed to win political support. That measure would have taxed unrealized capital gains of America’s richest individuals.

Most details on billionaire borrowing remain private. Individuals who own less than a 5% stake in a company, or who don’t work for that company, do not report stock ownership or pledging of shares to the SEC. Many of America’s wealthiest people—232 billionaires from this year’s Forbes 400 list, to be exact—hold their fortunes primarily in private companies. Any pledges against diversified baskets of stock or private assets are not reported in company filings. Disclosure requirements also do not include reporting whether, or how much, an individual has borrowed against their pledged shares. A few billionaires Forbes contacted said they don’t have outstanding debt against their pledges.

Most larger companies don’t allow pledging: Over two-thirds (68.4%) of S&P 500 companies ban all company employees and shareholders from pledging shares for debt, 22% prohibit pledging but with exemptions for certain individuals, and only 3.4% fully permit it, according to data provided by proxy advisory firm Institutional Investors Service (ISS). “When executives or directors have a significant percentage of their equity pledged, it creates a concern from the investor perspective,” says Jun Frank, an executive director for ISS’ corporate solutions group, which advises companies on corporate governance matters.

Those concerns include margin calls: forced sales of pledged shares that can sink a company’s stock price, which risks cascading into a broader, panic-induced selloff. An example: Green Mountain Coffee Roaster’s founder Robert Stiller borrowed against his company shares to fund an increasingly extravagant lifestyle, rather than sell shares. That worked fine when the share price was rising but quickly unraveled after a short-seller called into question its accounting in May 2012. The former billionaire was forced to sell 5 million shares, worth $126 million, in one day to cover margin calls on pledged Green Mountain stock. He was then removed as Chairman of the Board.

Pledging can also create friction between directors and executive officers pledging shares and outside shareholders, says Frank: “If you no longer have certain claims to those underlying economic interests and you continue to have the voting right, that creates a mismatch between the control you can exercise over the company and the economic interest you have in the company.”

Sometimes what company founders want, in this case to pledge shares, is at odds with what board members and shareholders want, which is to disallow pledging. The software company Oracle, for example, adopted a rule in January 2018 prohibiting its directors and executive officers from pledging company shares, although one individual was exempt: Larry Ellison, Oracle’s cofounder and largest individual shareholder. But then, as now, Ellison was the only Oracle director to ever report pledging any company shares. Ellison, who boasts a fortune of over $100 billion, has been pledging shares since at least 2007, after the Securities and Exchange Commission began requiring it.

In other words, Oracle’s new pledging policy had no immediate impact on the pledging activity of its directors and executives—Ellison least of all. Since 2018, he has increased the number of his pledged Oracle shares to 317 million — worth about $28 billion — equivalent to roughly 27% of his stake and 11% of all outstanding Oracle stock. Ellison did not sell any Oracle shares between December 2010 and June 2020, a near-decade stretch of big spending for the eccentric billionaire, who splashed $300 million in 2012 to buy the Hawaiian island of Lanai and tens of millions of dollars on opulent mansions, growing a $1 billion real estate portfolio that includes at least ten  properties on Malibu’s glitzy Carbon Beach.

While Oracle does not disclose how much Ellison has borrowed against his shares, his penchant for borrowing was revealed in unsealed court documents from a shareholder lawsuit. Those documents, first reported by The San Francisco Chronicle in 2006, showed that Ellison had outstanding loans of more than $1.2 billion in 2001, and that his financial adviser had warned him, “We have a freight train going down a track hitting a debt wall.” (Oracle did not respond to Forbes’ questions about its pledging policy or Ellison’s borrowing.)

Other companies find more creative ways to exempt billionaire founders from pledging bans. Take the oil and gas firm Kinder Morgan, whose prohibition on pledging comes with a caveat: shares owned “in excess of the applicable minimum ownership guidelines” are able to be pledged. The minimum ownership requirement for directors—such as executive chairman and billionaire Richard Kinder—is three times the value of their “annual cash retainer.” Helpfully, Kinder’s annual salary is $1. That means the eponymous cofounder can effectively pledge as many shares as he likes.

Kinder, whose $7.2 billion fortune makes him the 128th wealthiest American, has pledged 40 million shares of his eponymous company — 15.6% of his overall stake, worth $679 million — for the sole purpose of buying more company stock, as described in the company’s proxy statement. To date, Kinder has purchased 10 million additional shares of Kinder Morgan, financed with debt taken out against his pledged Kinder Morgan shares. A representative for Kinder Morgan confirmed Forbes’ interpretation of its pledging rules but declined to comment further.

Some companies are upfront about their exemptions, but fail to make a convincing argument for them. The medical conglomerate Danaher simply states in its 2021 proxy statement that its sibling founders, Forbes 400 members Steven and Mitchell Rales, are exempt from its pledging ban “because [their] shares had been pledged for decades.” Each brother has pledged a significant portion of their Danaher shares, a potential red flag for margin calls: Steven Rales has pledged 78% of his equity stake (just over $10 billion), and Mitchell has pledged nearly 91% of his equity stake (slightly under $10 billion). Together, their pledges are 9.4% of all outstanding Danaher stock. (Danaher and the Rales brothers did not respond to requests for comment).

Of the Forbes 400 billionaires, oil mogul George Kaiser (net worth: $10.7 billion) has the highest ratio of pledged shares to the company’s total outstanding common stock — another red flag for margin calls. His pledge of 21 million shares of bank holding company BOK Financial Corporation (worth nearly $2.3 billion) is equal to nearly 31% of all outstanding stock. But Kaiser says he only occasionally borrows against those pledged shares. “They are just low cost, back-up lines, which we have had in place for a long time and infrequently use,” he told Forbes over email.

Tesla argues that pledging creates a kind of fiduciary relationship between pledgers and shareholders. In 2018 the electric carmaker introduced a 25% loan-to-value limit on borrowing against pledged shares, arguing that pledging gives “executive officers flexibility in financial planning without having to rely on large cash compensation or the sale of Company shares, thus keeping their interests well aligned with those of our stockholders, while also mitigating risk exposure to the Company” — a stance Tesla has reiterated in subsequent proxy filings.

ISS countered this argument in its recent proxy analysis of Tesla’s corporate governance principles. “If an executive who already owns 15 or 20 percent of a company’s outstanding shares…is not already motivated to act in the interests of shareholders, there is no credible argument that increasing that stake to 25 or 30 percent will suffice to accomplish that goal,” says the report. “Perhaps a more salient, though unspoken, factor is that at current interest and tax rates, it is far cheaper to borrow against the value of one’s shares than to sell them and pay taxes on the gains.”

So just how prevalent is pledging assets to borrow among the ultra rich? “Pretty high,” responds Jason Cain, a managing director and chief wealth strategist at advisory firm Boston Private, speaking about his firm’s highest bracket of clients: those with above $500 million in assets. (Cain declined to provide an exact percentage figure). “It’s not any different than families… who borrow for homes” and other life purchases, says Cain. “Most of these clients are aware of the uses of debt and with interest rates where they have been in the recent past, they understand the arbitrage opportunity.”

Ali Jamal, and ex-Julius Baer banker and founder of Azura, a boutique wealth management firm for billionaire entrepreneurs, says that during the stock market crash of March 2020, about 70% of Azura’s clients took on leverage — by pledging shares, but also artwork and car collections — to take on debt to buy more stock. And over the past year, about 40% of Azura clients have leveraged their way into special purpose acquisition corporations. “You can borrow at 40 basis points, max 50 basis points, to have someone very smart” identify an investment opportunity, says Jamal about the appeal of leveraging into SPACs, “and if you don’t like the opportunity, you can pull your money out.”

Borrowing against one’s shares has its risks, but for these billionaires, the rewards seem to outweigh them. “It’s perfectly legal, and it’s a little hard to say it’s immoral. Like, it’s immoral to own a growth stock? It’s immoral to borrow money?” says Edward McCaffrey, a tax law professor at USC Gould School of Law who coined the popular term “Buy, Borrow, Die” to describe how the ultra-wealthy borrow to avoid paying taxes. “So the question is, why would anybody not do it?

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I am a New York-based journalist covering billionaires and wealth at Forbes. I studied history at Claremont McKenna College and I’m currently receiving my M.A. in business and

Source: How America’s Richest People Can Access Billions Without Selling Their Stock

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Related Contents:

Savills and Wealth-X (2014). Around the World in Dollars and Cents (PDF). p. 2. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2014-05-14. Retrieved 2014-03-06.

Bill Gates’ Investment Firm Buys Controlling Stake In Four Seasons Hotels For $2.2 Billion

Bill Gates will purchase a majority stake in the Four Seasons hotel chain for $2.21 billion, the company announced Wednesday.

Cascade Investment LLC, which manages the Microsoft cofounder’s massive fortune, agreed to buy half of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s stake in the hotel chain. The all-cash deal pushes Gates’ ownership from 47.5% to 71.25% and values the Four Seasons at $10 billion in enterprise value. The deal is expected to close in January 2022.

The purchase is a bet by Gates in part on the rebound of high-end business travel to big cities, which has suffered a blow during the pandemic. At least two Four Seasons hotels —including the one in midtown Manhattan— are currently closed; the midtown Manhattan location, which is owned by Beanie Baby’s billionaire founder Ty Warner, is “undergoing substantial infrastructure and maintenance work,” according to a note on its website.

However, one industry insider told Forbes that luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons lose money unless they operate at very high occupancy rates. In a statement, the hotel operator said the deal “marks a pivotal point in the evolution of Four Seasons” and affirms Cascade’s commitment to provide the Four Seasons “with resources to accelerate growth and expand its strategic goals.”

Through his investment vehicle Kingdom Holding Co., Prince Alwaleed will hold onto his remaining 23.75% stake. Forbes long counted the Saudi Prince as a billionaire — and one of the richest people in the world, but removed him from the Forbes billionaires list after November 2017, when Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman kept Alwaleed and other princes and business leaders captive in the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh and reportedly extracted billions of dollars from them.

Isadore Sharp, Four Seasons Founder and Chairman, will also retain his 5% stake through Triples Holdings Limited, the company said. Bill Gates is currently ranked by Forbes as the fifth richest person in the world, worth an estimated $132.8 billion fortune.

In addition to its Four Seasons investment, Cascade is the largest private owner of farmland in the U.S. Gates’ investment firm also owns stakes in car dealership AutoNation, farm equipment manufacturer John Deere and other stocks.

Kingdom will retain 23.75%. Four Seasons Founder and Chairman Isadore Sharp, through Triples Holdings Limited, will keep his 5% stake. Cascade first invested in Four Seasons in 1997. It was public at that time, but the company went private in 2007. Founded in 1960, Four Seasons manages 121 hotels and resorts and 46 residential properties in 47 countries. It also has more than 50 projects at various stages of development.

“As we mark our 60th anniversary and look back on the profound impact that Four Seasons has had on luxury hospitality we also look forward with tremendous excitement and confidence in the future of the industry,” Four Seasons CEO John Davison said in a statement. “The unwavering support and partnership of our shareholders has been and continues to be critical as we capitalize on growing opportunities to serve luxury consumers worldwide.”

Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a San Francisco-based reporter covering wealth at Forbes. Follow me on Twitter @rachsandl or shoot me an email rsandler@forbes.com.

Source: Bill Gates’ Investment Firm Buys Controlling Stake In Four Seasons Hotels For $2.2 Billion

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Avoid These 5 Phrases That Make You Sound ‘Passive Aggressive’: Body Language Expert

Today, we live in a world where business, degrees and even entire relationships are conducted behind a screen. As a result, employee frustration and miscommunication is at an all-time high, with tone alone being misinterpreted almost half of the time in email, leading to endless wasted hours and heightened anxiety.

For better or worse, digital communication, whether it’s through email or direct messages on platforms like Slack, don’t let us see each other’s immediate reactions — which is why we look for ways to “politely” express irritation. The key word is “politely,” but it isn’t always interpreted that way.

So let’s take a look at the five most common phrases employees use that actually make them passive aggressive and petty:

1. “Per my last email…”

What it actually means: “You didn’t really read what I wrote. Pay attention this time!”

2. “For future reference…”

What it actually means: “Let me correct your blatant ‘mistake’ that you already knew was wrong.”

3. “Bumping this to the top of your inbox…”

What it actually means: “You’re my boss [or employee]. This is the third time I’ve asked you. I need you to get this s*** done.”

4. “Just to be sure we’re on the same page…”

What this actually means: “I’m going to cover my a** here and make sure that everyone who refers to this email in the future knows that I was right all along.”

5. “Going forward…”

What it actually means: “Do not ever do that again.”

It’s likely that you’ve used one of these phrases before without even realizing that it could be perceived as passive aggressive. Or, you may have been on the receiving end, which can also be frustrating.

(Even as a digital body language researcher, whenever I see “Thanks for your patience” in an email, I can’t decide if they’re brushing me off with an undefined future date, or if they really only need a few days longer than expected to get back to me. In most cases, though, I know they’re just saying “Sorry I’m late with this; it’s taking longer than I thought.” That’s all.)

The right way to express what you mean

So how should we frame our own “Just following up on this” without engaging in any passive aggressiveness? When is it okay to loop in our boss without seeming like a jerk? When do we use the phone to call and clarify something?

Here are four things successful communicators do:

1. Don’t respond to messages or emails when you’re angry or frustrated.

This prevents miscommunication, wasted time and regret. If you feel emotionally hijacked, save your email message as a draft and revise and send it when you’re in a better mood.

2. Assume good intent.

Instead of calling someone out for screwing up, step into their shoes and ask yourself, “What are some reasons why they might have made this mistake?”

It’s better to people exactly what they need to take action. Sometimes just adding a quick brief so that they don’t have to go back and read through previous emails and writing “Here’s what I need from you” or “Here are the open dates again” is helpful.

3. Show empathy and encouragement.

Replace imperative words like “Do this” with conditional phrases like “Could you do this?” When delivering feedback, begin your message by expressing appreciation using words like “Thank you for [X]” or “Excellent job on [X].”

If your boss, or even a client, sends you a passive aggressive email, fight that urge to send an even more petty reply. Lowering your actions down to their level will only escalate the tension and increase anxiety.

4. Avoid digital ghosting.

Need to get back to someone? Here’s a quick guide to remember:

  • If you can answer in 60 seconds or less: Respond immediately.
  • If it’s urgent: Respond immediately or let the sender know you are working on it. Make an appointment with yourself on your calendar if you need to.
  • If it’s a matter lacking urgency: Don’t stress; block out time to follow up after at your convenience.
  • If you’re the one waiting for a response: Unless it’s critical that you get a reply ASAP, remember that people may have a lot on their plates. If you follow up twice and don’t get a reply, switch to a different medium (e.g. a phone call).

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By: Erica Dhawan, Contributor

Erica Dhawan is a leadership expert, keynote speaker and author of “Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance.” She is also the founder and CEO of Cotential, a company that has helped leaders and teams leverage collaboration skills globally. Her writing has appeared in publications, including Fast Company and Harvard Business Review. Follow her on Twitter @ericadhawan.

Source: Avoid these 5 phrases that make you sound ‘passive aggressive’: Body language expert

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The Shady, Secret History Of OnlyFans’ Billionaire Owner

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In October 2018, Florida-based internet porn baron Leonid Radvinsky, now 39, bought an estimated 75% of a growing but largely unheard-of business called OnlyFans. At the time, London-based OnlyFans was a fledgling video and social site that allowed adult performers to make money from the comfort of their own homes.

“Content creators” – mostly porn stars — set up accounts via the company’s platform and charge a subscription fee to viewers (whom the company calls “fans”) that ranges from $4.99 to $49.99 a month —and the performers keep 80% of whatever they charge.

With all film production – adult or otherwise – shuttered during the pandemic and millions of lonely people stuck at home, OnlyFans’ business has boomed. In the year through November 2020, OnlyFans posted revenues of $400 million, up 540% over the prior year, 80% of which came from American customers.

The number of creators nearly quintupled to 1.6 million, including more mainstream stars like Cardi B, DJ Khaled, Fat Joe, and Rebecca Minkoff. The total number of paying fans rose more than 500% to 82 million. Profits after tax rose to $60 million from $6.6 million. Forbes estimates that Radvinsky’s stake in Fenix International – OnlyFans’ parent company — makes him a new billionaire, worth some $1.8 billion.

Outside of these eye-popping financials, which were published in the U.K., little is known about Radvinsky, who didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment. A representative for OnlyFans also declined to comment. We do know that OnlyFans was founded in 2016 by a British entrepreneur named Timothy Stokely, now 37, alongside his retired banker father, Guy Stokely, and brother Thomas. In U.K. filings, Radvinsky and Guy Stokely are listed as the company’s sole directors. Timothy, Thomas, and Guy Stokely all declined to comment for this story.

What little else is known about Radvinsky is not flattering. Some twenty years ago, before Internet pornography was widely available for free, he ran a small empire of websites that advertised access to “illegal” and “hacked” passwords to porn sites, including ones that were advertised as featuring underage performers. In the late 1990s such link sites were common and were used to market not just pornography but online gambling and other grey market activities.

But Radvinsky was particularly aggressive. Looking through the Wayback Machine’s website archive, Forbes uncovered 11 such sites, all created in the late 1990s and early 2000s by Radvinsky and his Glenview, Illinois-based business, Cybertania. They included Password Universe, which, in 2000, published a link directing web users to a site claiming to offer pedophiles more than 10,000 “illegal pre-teen passwords.”

In 1999, a site called Working Passes had a link for “the hottest underaged hardcore” containing 16-year-olds. Also in 2000, another site, Ultra Passwords, promised a link containing “the best illegal teen passwords” and “the hottest bestiality site on the web.” The legal age for porn actors in the U.S. is 18, while bestiality (the act of having sex with an animal) is illegal in most American states. (The Wayback Machine removed Radvinsky’s old websites from its archive after speaking to Forbes.)

But there’s no evidence that any of Radvinsky’s sites actually linked to child pornography or bestiality. Instead, the sites appear to have been a way for Radvinsky to earn money by charging his partners (actual porn sites) for every click. Forbes, prohibited from accessing such imagery, asked the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a specialist group engaged in the removal of such content on the web, to look at archived webpages containing links advertising underage pornography. According to the IWF, none linked to illegal material.


It was a scummy business, but it was a profitable one. One of Radvinsky’s sites was bringing in revenues of $5,000 a day in 2002, or $1.8 million for the year.


Instead, the links typically went through to similar sites offering more links to free porn passwords or other adult content. In 2002, a year before Radvinsky graduated from Northwestern University, where he majored in economics, his company Cybertania sued domain name registrar and internet backbone provider Verisign, claiming that Verisign transferred one of its websites to someone else.

In that suit, Radvinsky’s company said that it was in partnership with those same sites from which it had claimed to have “hacked” logins: “Cybertania earned a sum of money for each hyperlink connection or password, used from the respective owner and operators of those referral sites,” Cybertania’s lawyers wrote. In another lawsuit against Radvinsky, the plaintiff stated that Ultra Passwords “presents the deceptive image of providing ‘hacked’ (stolen) passwords to get free services from other pornographic sites, but which is in fact a lucrative affiliate referral site.”

It was a scummy business, but it was a profitable one. In the Cybertania suit against Verisign, Radvinsky’s company said its Ultra Passwords site was bringing in revenues of $5,000 a day in 2002, or $1.8 million for the year.

Radvinsky remained elusive during the nearly 20 years between the start of his sex link farm businesses and his purchase of 75% of OnlyFans. In the early 2000s, he created a handful of sites linking to celebrity sex tapes and MyFreeCams, a site that claims to be the world’s number one porn-via-webcam service. He has also occasionally popped up in lawsuits. In 2003 and 2004, Amazon and Microsoft sued Radvinsky in U.S. district court in Seattle for alleged spam campaigns that used the Amazon name and Microsoft email tools to offer spam recipients “free money from the government” or links to adult websites. Radvinsky denied all allegations.

The cases were settled out of court in 2005, and Radvinsky and his businesses were barred from using Amazon’s name in spam or using any of Microsoft’s email tools. His Cybertania business was sued in 2005 by a model, Sheila Lussier, for using her (clothed) image on one of his porn sites, an allegation the company fought. Lussier says she settled for an undisclosed sum.

OnlyFans has run into its own issues with underage performers. Since the site doesn’t independently verify its sex workers’ ages, it’s fairly easy for people to lie. In late May, a BBC investigation revealed that a 14-year-old girl had been able to register an account as a performer on OnlyFans using her grandmother’s passport.

A senior police officer told the BBC that OnlyFans is “[N]ot doing enough to put in place the safeguards that prevent children exploiting the opportunity to generate money, but also for children to be exploited.” In response, OnlyFans issued a statement that it used “state-of-the-art technology” and “human monitoring” to try to prevent under-18s sharing content on the platform and it took the issue “very seriously.”

Signy Arnason, associate executive director of The Canadian Center for Child Protection, says her group often receives notifications about OnlyFans’ models potentially being underage. She describes OnlyFans’ efforts to protect underage performers as “minimal.” OnlyFans has “a moral and ethical responsibility to be doing better here,” she adds.

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Source: The Shady, Secret History Of OnlyFans’ Billionaire Owner

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Critics:

OnlyFans is a content subscription service based in London, England.[3][4] Content creators can earn money from users who subscribe to their content—the “fans”. It allows content creators to receive funding directly from their fans on a monthly basis as well as one-time tips and the pay-per-view (PPV) feature.

The service is popular with and commonly associated with sex workers but it also hosts the work of other content creators, such as physical fitness experts, musicians and other creators who post regularly online.

OnlyFans was launched in 2016 as a platform for performers to provide clips and photos to followers for a monthly subscription fee. The parent company is Fenix International Limited. Two years later, Leonid Radvinsky, owner of MyFreeCams, acquired 75% ownership of Fenix and became its director.

In 2019, OnlyFans introduced an extra safeguard into the account verification process so that a creator now has to provide a selfie headshot with their ID in the image in order to prove that the ID provided belongs to the account holder. The site has over 24 million registered users and claims to have paid out US$725 million to its 450,000 content creators.

After the site was mentioned by Beyoncé in the song “Savage” in April 2020, CEO Tim Stokely claimed OnlyFans was “seeing about 200,000 new users every 24 hours and 7,000 to 8,000 new creators joining every day.” In the same line, Savage also mentioned Demon Time, a social media show, and shortly after the release of that song, OnlyFans announced a partnership with Demon Time to create a monetized virtual night club using the site’s dual-screen live feature.

In January 2020, 20-year-old American Kaylen Ward raised more than US$1 million in contributions to charity during the wild bushfires in Australia. OnlyFans teamed with her for their first partnership for a charitable cause.This started a trend with some OnlyFans creators who have been raising money through their accounts.

As of June 2021, top OnlyFans creators Jem Wolfie, an Australian fitness model, and Mia Malkova, an American pornographic actress, reportedly earn over $7 million per month in subscription income through the platform.

As pornography is allowed on OnlyFans, the website is mainly used by pornographic models, both amateur and professional, but it also has a market with chefs, fitness enthusiasts, and musicians.Users must be at least 18 years old to register, regardless of the content consumed. In March 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of OnlyFans content creators increased by 40%, and the number of users on the site increased from 7.5 million to 85 million.

See also

References:

“Donate $10 to Australia, Get a Nude Photo”. The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2020.

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