Collapsed Pollen’s co-founder married Jim Davidson’s daughter at lavish Ibiza wedding
One of two brothers behind a collapsed $800million events start-up married the daughter of comedian Jim Davidson at a lavish bash in Ibiza – where they forked out for a £50,000 villa, three months before the firm went bust.
Mr Davidson, 69, is pictured giving his daughter Elsie away to Liam Negus-Fancey at a beautiful clifftop ceremony on the party island paradise.
Liam married fiancée Elsie Davidson in May this year, weeks before he and brother Callum’s ticketing firm Pollen crashed into administration with monumental debts.
They ceased operating in August owing $83 million to vendors and customers, after allegedly paying £52,776 to rent a villa in Ibiza for 20 employees for eight weeks in May, whilst also laying off 200 staff the same month.
A former executive at Pollen who was among those laid off has told MailOnline how the brothers’ ‘stupidity’ and a company drinking and party culture exacerbated the firm’s downfall.
Photos show Liam and Ms Negus-Fancey, who have a child together, at their clifftop wedding in Ibiza, as Mr Davidson, 69, looks on
Liam (left) and Callum (right) are pictured enjoying themselves at a social event
Ms Negus-Fancey is seen being embraced by her father, the well-known comedian and actor Jim Davidson
Liam and Ms Davidson’s opulent wedding came three months after he sold his luxury two-storey apartment in Kennington, London, for £825,000 – five years after purchasing it for £702,500.
The wedding also came a few days after the villa in Ibiza was rented. Employees were laid off on May 10. Five board members also resigned tht month.
Pollen’s former Strategy Director Christine Osazuwa says ‘by May this year everything had gone to sh*t’.
Speaking of how the sackings at Pollen came as the brothers were enjoying themselves in Ibiza, Pollen’s former Strategy Director Christine Osazuwa said: ‘It was stupidity unchecked.
‘I was among 200 people in the UK, US and across the world who got laid off.
‘I should have got two months money as severance pay, but that never happened. I don’t think anyone else got paid either.
‘But at the same time these guys were running this villa in Ibiza.
‘Liam got married and Callum had a baby. They had the villa for two months and were spending thousands of the company’s money in Ibiza while sacking most of the staff.
‘The whole situation was wrong.’
High-flying Miss Osazuwa was head-hunted from the Warner Music Group to become Strategy Director at Pollen, driving development at the Venture Capitalist funded firm.
She said: ‘I believed in the business model, in fact I still do, but they were not managing the business model properly.
‘They just were not spending the money wisely. Hotel bills were not getting paid, so the hotels would not host events.
How Callum Negus-Fancey boasted of unlimited paid holidays for staff
The co-founder of Pollen boasted of how employees had unlimited paid holidays.
Speaking in a 2014 interview, Callum Negus-Fancey told how his firm had signed up to a ‘results-only environment [ROE]’.
‘The definition of a results-only environment is work wherever you want, whenever you want, as long as the work gets done,’ he said.
‘And the basic premise is all about giving people far more autonomy over the decision they make.’
He added: ‘A traditional management structure is all about telling people what to do.’
‘As much as possible I don’t like rules and approvals and whatever else. And we are kind of moving as far away from that as possible.
‘Soon I want to take a page out of Netflix’s book and not even track expenses either.’
‘So they would have to pay the hotels more to get back in. Or they would have to offer artists huge sums of money to perform.
‘By May this year everything had gone to sh*t.’
Speaking of the drinking culture at Pollen, Ms Osazuwa added: ‘I joined in November last year as Strategy Director.
‘I don’t drink and I don’t do drugs, so I didn’t really fit in. There was nothing enticing in that lifestyle for me.
‘Drinking was very common in the office. They held a two-day on-boarding event for new staff members at which there would be a lot of alcohol.
‘There would be workshops during the day and parties at night. It got pretty wild.’
She continued: ‘I don’t care what people do with their money as long as they pay their bills and look after their staff. These guys were not doing either.
‘It was pure stupidity. It should be a criminal offence to spend money that you know you don’t have, but it isn’t.
‘I am still owed £19,000 in back pay. But staff are still owed on average more than £6,500 in back pay.’
At about the same time as Ms Osazuwa’s departure, gifted music executive Zeon Richards quit Pollen as Head of Partnerships after become disillusioned with the company ethics.
He explained his decision in a post on Linkedin citing ‘practices within the company which do not align with my ethics’.
Pollen maintains the Ibiza property was used ‘solely for business purposes’, with Callum’s expense report listing it as ‘accommodation and entertainment for key clients.’
A spokesman for Liam told MailOnline: ‘There is no correlation between Liam’s wedding and the sacking of staff.
‘Pollen rented a villa in Ibiza Town where genuine business meetings were held.
‘The wedding was held in the north of the island at a completely different location.
‘The ceremony had to be postponed three times because of Covid so the vast majority of the cost of the wedding was paid way ahead of time.’
Pollen was originally called Physical Network when it was founded by the brothers.
The premise of the firm saw young ‘ambassadors’, usually 16-25, recruited to sell events tickets to friends in return for perks and experiences.
The brothers rebranded to Verve in 2014 and, as the business continued to grow, changed their name again to Pollen in 2018.
Stars they worked with included Justin Bieber, 50 Cent and Scooter Braun. In 2019, Forbes named the brothers on its Europe 30 under 30 list.
By 2020, the pair were selling tickets to festivals and putting on their own events at big-name venues including the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort in Mexico.
Elsie Negus-Fancey is pictured with her daughter. The image is believed to have been taken in Ibiza
Photos taken in Ibiza also reveal the opulent after-party following Liam’s wedding. Above: He is pictured with a friend
Another image posted on social media shows Ms Negus-Fancey holding a glass of champagne on a plane, with one comment saying: ‘You on your private jet again’. It is unclear if the remark was in jest
Callum Negus-Fancey is pictured in a swimming pool with a young woman in an image posted to social media
Liam is pictured with Elsie in an image posted to social media. The couple married in May
Callum Negus-Fancey is pictured above. He and his brother founded Pollen
Callum is seen riding horses along a sandy beach in an image that was posted to social media
Whilst employees described Callum as a ‘grifter’ and ‘hustler’, his brother – the Chief Revenue Officer – was often not in the office, according to former staff.
In one picture shared on social media, he was seen attached to a drip alongside the caption: ‘What hangover?’
But according to Insider, Pollen workers claimed there was a ‘frat party’ culture at the firm.
One worker told the publication she was given mimosa cocktails on her first day, while another alleged they did shots ‘at 10am on a Tuesday.’
Dozens of Twitter users complained about Pollen. One wrote: ‘I am yet to receive my refund 6 months after it was promised. This is disgusting’
Former employees also alleged staff members asked each other sexually explicit questions on company retreats, including questions like: ‘Of the people in this room, who do you think is most likely to sleep with three other people in this room at some point in their career?’
In April 2018, a former employee alleged that Liam slid his hand down her lower back and over her buttocks at a Las Vegas venue which was rented out to celebrate the company’s $25 million acquisition of JusCollege, a company that sold travel packages to college students.
A company rep told Insider that the allegation was ‘completely untrue.’
So-called ‘lock-in’ parties were also claimed to have been arranged at ice-rinks and karaoke bars, which workers claimed were an excuse to ‘get completely obliterated’.
Former employees also told of the widespread use of ecstasy, acid, cocaine, ketamine and mushrooms, according to Insider.
Jim Davidson is pictured with his then wife and children in the year 2000 at a premiere for the film The Flintones in Viva Rock Vegas
Pollen was originally called Physical Network when it was founded by the brothers. Above: Liam (left) and his brother Callum (right)
‘It was harder to not find drugs than to find them,’ one former Pollen employee told the publication.
After a 300 per cent surge in sails in 2021 – when most Covid restrictions were lifted – investors pumped $150million into the firm in April this year. It meant Pollen had an $800million valuation.
Four months later, the firm filed for bankruptcy, despite delivering ‘$100m in revenue between September 2021 and March 2022’, according to a Pollen representative.
Pollen, according to documents and the testimony of employees and customers, appears to have suffered in the long term from a string of cancelled events between 2020 and 2022 which saw its refunds and debts to venues soar.
The company’s recent public accounts show the firm made a loss of £30million in 2020.
The firm insisted that the rented Ibiza villa was used ‘solely for business purposes,’ with Callum’s expense report having listed it as ‘accommodation and entertainment for key clients.’
Liam Negus-Fancey is pictured with his wife as he holds his newborn daughter in 2019. The couple tied the knot in May
The Chief Revenue Officer Liam (pictured) shared pictures on social media using IV drips to cure hangovers
Photos taken at Liam’s wedding – weeks away from the firm’s collapse – show him and his new wife embracing on a hilltop, with others revealing the opulent after-party.
Another image posted on social media shows Ms Negus-Fancey holding a glass of champagne on a plane, with one comment saying: ‘You on your private jet again’. It is unclear if the remark was in jest.
The firm came under fire in January, when it cancelled the seven-day Departure Festival, which was set to be held on the shores of Playa del Carmen in Mexico and promised 70 artists performing across four custom-built stages, each worth $300,000.
Punters claimed that they were informed on the opening day that it would be kicking off a day later than planned – before it was cancelled the very next morning due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.
TikTok user Cyrus Keefer, who was hoping to attend the festival, fumed: ‘It was as if it never existed… Like, the box office where we got our wristbands from – gone. The stages, the staff, and the crew – they’re gone.’
More than 4,000 people had bought tickets to the event, with some claiming to have not received a refund by early November.
A Pollen representative insisted to Insider that that all 4,028 people who bought tickets were refunded. They said those who did not get their money back must have had a an ‘issue on the customer’s side’.
They said all costs were incurred by Pollen.
Another festival cancelled due to Covid was Golden Sand festival, also in January and Mexico, which had big stars billed, including 50 Cent, Fat Joe and Lil’ Kim.
An event headlined by reggaeton star J Balvin was postponed until June but was also ultimately cancelled, as were 39 of the 360 events put on by Pollen over the past year.
‘It is always a difficult decision to cancel any of our Experiences,’ a Pollen representative said.
In April investors had pumped $150m into the company, giving Pollen an $800m valuation (Event posted on Pollen’s Instagram)
By 2022, the Negus-Fancey brothers had raised more than $200million from venture capitalists (pictured The Vamps performing at a Pollen event)
Singer Jaden Smith performs under his stage name Jaden at XS Nightclub as part of a three day experience organised by Pollen in October last year
Singer Justin Bieber performs at XS Nightclub as part of a three day experience by Pollen in 2021
‘We never want to let our customers down, nor the local community and our partners whose livelihoods would be impacted by a cancellation.’
Bloomberg reported that the firm was overwhelmed by refund requests that cost it more than $75million since the onset of the pandemic.
By July, it is said to have owed the Grand Oasis Cancun and Las Vegas Hilton around $3.6million and $1million respectively.
A petition launched by angry customers to ‘Stop Pollen’ gained more than 800 signatures.
The Change.org post said: ‘We are determined to stop Pollen. They haven’t given people refunds for their events, they’ve been rude to customers, they’ve been dishonest, ect.
‘People deserve to get their money back. Pollen’s customers deserve explanations when they ask questions.
‘Nobody deserves the run around or the treatment many of us have experienced.’
Just weeks after receiving the $150m in funding, Pollen cut around 200 jobs in early May.
Tech industry experts suggested the jobs bloodbath may have been a cost cutting measure put forward by investors as part of their agreement. The firm had hired more than 400 staff in total.
In August the firm was hit with a winding up petition.
The order was issued by creditors 101 Ways Limited, according to the HM Tribunals website.
The firm came under fire in January, when it cancelled the seven-day Departure Festival
The cancellation of Departure Festival came after the Omicron variant had been sweeping through the region in the weeks prior
39 of the 360 events put on by Pollen over the past year were cancelled (pictured: Pollen event)
Pollen told the Telegraph the debt had been settled and a court official said the petition was later withdrawn.
The same month, an agency complained on LinkedIn that it was owed £24,000 by Pollen, after the firm delayed its payroll for July.
Callum Negus-Fancey is understood to have told staff in August: ‘I’m afraid I don’t have a meaningful update yet. I understand the impact this is having and I’m sorry I can’t share more.’
Announcing its insolvency in August, it said in a statement: ‘Despite strong growth since Streetteam Software Ltd.’s inception eight years ago, the knock-on effects of COVID-19 over the last two years, which decimated much of the travel sector, together with the tech stock crash and current consumer uncertainty in light of global economic conditions, put too much pressure on the business whilst at a critical stage of a scale-up’s maturity.’
Comedian Mr Davidson declined to comment when contacted by MailOnline.
His agent Chris Davis said: ‘Basically it’s no comment from Jim. Merry Christmas.’