Former RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal, who was fired last month after he accepted a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence, says he's "disappointed" in the company's board, and will sue for wrongful termination.
In an open letter posted Thursday, Chahal castigated the board of the ad network company, arguing that it had known about the charges he faced for months, and urged him not to quit as CEO -- something he said he had suggested he do as he fought the case.
"As you all know, I resigned from the board of directors on Tuesday," Chahal wrote. "In light of recent events and to stay transparent and forthright, you give me no other vehicle than an open letter to communicate adequately. I am deeply disappointed by your actions and decisions over the last few weeks."
Chahal continued, arguing that the board had been aware of his legal situation since last August -- he was accused of beating his girlfriend -- and had supported him the whole way through the legal proceedings. In late April, he agreed to accept misdemeanor charges after the San Francisco district attorney's office abandoned felony charges.
"All of you were well aware of the legal matter I had been struggling with since August, just as you were aware that of the exaggerated allegations against me," he continued. "You supported me from the beginning both in person and in writing, and you made it clear that you had every intention of standing by me until justice prevailed. In August 2013, when this incident first arose, I even suggested [new CEO] Bill Lonergan to take over as CEO while I battle to clear my name and you were against that idea. You gave me your full support, confirming that I was still the best person to lead the Company."
Chahal maintains that the DA's charges were false and that he accepted the misdemeanor plea as a way of avoiding trial and helping RadiumOne proceed with an IPO process that was about to begin.
"While we have not seen Chahal's complaint of wrongful termination, such a complaint would be without merit," a RadiumOne spokesperson said in a statement. "Gurbaksh Chahal's own actions impaired his ability to lead RadiumOne as CEO and gave the board no choice but to terminate his employment and name a new CEO."
Chahal, who had previously founded and sold a previous ad network, Blue Lithium, to Yahoo for $300 million, founded RadiumOne in September 2009. On its website, RadiumOne says it "builds intelligent software that automates media buying, making big data actionable for marketers and connects them to their next customer."
The former CEO is not the only RadiumOne executive with recent legal troubles. As CNET reported exclusively earlier this month, the company's former director of engineering, Brad Smith, was wanted by the US Secret Service for, among other things, identify theft, and was believed to be living and working under a false name. The government said Smith's real name was Bradley Raymond Anderson. Anderson fled San Francisco in February, and eventually turned himself into authorities in Portland, Ore. He is now awaiting a July trial date on seven felony counts.
RadiumOne told CNET earlier this month that it had not known about Smith's alleged deceit, and that "the day [we] discovered that Brad Smith was operating under a false identity, the company terminated his employment."
RadiumOne, which has received a total of $33.5 million in venture funding, is expected to be pursuing an IPO. Despite what Chahal argues was support from the board, there are some who believe that the company was unable to back him after he accepted the misdemeanor conviction, in part because the public scrutiny could endanger the IPO's chances. "I think the decision was made because the negative publicity [surrounding Chahal's conviction] was too much," Tasso Roumeliotis, founder and CEO of Location Labs, a mobile services company that develops safety and security services around device location management, told CNET earlier this month. "It would have hampered their ability to go public and it would have been a black stain."
True or not, there's little doubt that RadiumOne's image has suffered as a result of the Chahal drama. The former CEO wrote today that while he was initially offered stock options after his firing, he believes the company is now trying to cut him out of the picture altogether. "Not only are you withholding that, but now you're also trying to figure out other ways [to] dilute my holdings at RadiumOne further," he wrote. "You have left me with no other options but to seek legal recourse. And, now [you] will have to face severe legal consequences individually for this in the court of law."