The hot water seems to be growing hotter at the multibillion-dollar startup Better.com, which burst into public consciousness last year after founder and CEO Vishal Garg simultaneously fired hundreds of employees during an epicly misguided webinar.
The company has been doggedly working to go public via a merger known as a SPAC, but corporate filings released Monday signaled that those plans have continued to lose momentum.
In one of the filings, the entity that would help Better go public—Aurora Acquisition Corp.—noted that discussions are formally underway to seek an alternative form of financing for Better in which it would “remain a private company.”
That language appeared much more concrete than statements Aurora made in a July filing, when it referred to “preliminary conversations” about potential deal structures that could result in Better staying private.
In this week’s report, Aurora said the companies “remain committed” to their attempt to go public, and they extended their deadline for completing a deal from next month to March 2023.
Failing to go public via a SPAC could frustrate some investors and employees who had been hoping for the easy liquidity afforded by the public markets—potentially dealing yet another morale blow to the business.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Better said, "We are considering all capitalization options so that we can continue to make homeownership simpler, faster—and most importantly, more accessible for all Americans."
Better and Garg have been dogged by controversies for more than a year. As Forbes reported in 2020, the mercurial founder has been ensnared in legal disputes with former business partners who alleged they may have been cheated out of money. (Garg has denied wrongdoing.)
More recently, The Daily Beast reported on governance concerns at Better, after one of Garg’s top lieutenants received massive amounts of equity under highly favorable terms. (The executive was later placed on administrative leave following accusations about bullying and other workplace issues; she subsequently departed the business.)
Those problems played out with limited public attention. That changed with the now-viral mass layoff, which made Garg and Better the subjects of relentless negative press coverage and forced him to take a leave of absence.
The company has since laid off workers several more times, including last week, when things once again didn’t go smoothly. According to sources cited by TechCrunch, Better was forced to terminate some employees earlier than expected after a partial list of the planned cuts “leaked internally.”
Better is also reportedly facing an inquiry from the Securities & Exchange Commission pegged to a lawsuit from a former executive who said the company “misled investors.”
Better has denied wrongdoing on that front, too, and has said that it is cooperating with the SEC.