LONDON — Unilad and Ladbible founder Alex Partridge has won a legal battle at the High Court in London against the current Unilad management — co-CEOs Sam Bentley and Liam Harrington — that could result in Unilad being sold.
Unilad and Ladbible are two media companies that have become well-known for sharing entertaining and sometimes controversial content through their Facebook pages and websites. Unilad has 28 million followers on Facebook and the majority of UK university students are familiar with the brand.
A judgment document seen by Business Insider shows that His Honour Judge Gerald sided with Partridge on May 26. Bentley and Harrington plan to appeal the decision.
Partridge launched the legal fight in March 2016 when he sued for a one-third share of the business, claiming that the current management had breached a partnership agreement signed in 2013. At the time, he was seeking a sale of assets from the company and a share of the proceeds.
Partridge gave two-thirds of Unilad, which developed a reputation for posting misogynistic content, to Harrington and Bentley in May 2013, according to the legal document. Less than four months later, Bentley and Harrington excluded Partridge from administrative access to the Unilad Facebook page, which is a key traffic driver to the unilad.co.uk website, the judge wrote. At the same time, Harrington and Bentley wrote to Partridge saying he was excluded from further participation in running the business but guaranteed that he would retain his one third share of income and assets provided there was no further reaction on his part.
Bentley and Harrington excluded Partridge largely because he posted three links to HelloU (his new employer’s website) on the Unilad Facebook page on evening of September 5, 2013. Harrington and Bentley claimed that the postings breached what had been agreed between the trio on September 2, 2013.
On July 8 2014, Partridge met Harrington and Partridge was told that the partnership had been “null and void” since September 2013.
“Overall, I have not found the defendants to be honest or credible witnesses who came to court to tell the truth or give full and frank evidence,” wrote Judge Gerald. “Not only did they contradict each other on key aspects of their case, as well as their own contemporaneous documentation, but many of the central aspects of their case were abandoned or not pursued or have changed out all recognition from the case originally pleaded or in its amended form.”
When the legal action was brought about, the defence told The Guardian: “There is no shared association at all between the original brand and our current business model. For the avoidance of doubt, we consider that the claims made are vexatious, factually incorrect, and defamatory.
“The company has at all times acted in accordance with its obligations and looks forward to continuing the evolution of Unilad.co.uk as a force for change. Our priority is protecting the new Unilad and its new direction. Whilst we have no doubt that the claims made are without merit, all legal matters will be dealt with in accordance with the proper channels, respecting both the confidentiality of the company and the parties involved.”
Business Insider understands that at least one party could be interested in buying Unilad for upwards of £20 million. A source who wishes to remain anonymous told us that they were interested in buying the company, adding that they may have to pay up to £40 million for it. Steven Judge, a partner at Stephen Rimmers law firm, is involved in the sale of the company.
Partridge went on to work as the head of the Facebook team at marketing company Social Chain, but he has recently left.
A spokesperson representing the current Unilad management, said: “We’re not the first media tech company to have been involved in a legal dispute like this, and while we’re surprised and disappointed by the County Court decision, we will continue to develop the creative direction of the UNILAD brand, delivering incredible content which our audience loves to watch and share. We’re looking to appeal the judgment, which we believe is flawed, therefore we cannot comment in detail about the case.”