The news is shocking. RadiumOne CEO and founder Gurbaksh Chahal was arrested in San Francisco and charged with 47 counts of felony assault against his girlfriend, including assault with a deadly weapon, namely a pillow. According to one report, police allege he hit and kicked his girlfriend 117 times in an assault that is captured on video in his palatial apartment overlooking the San Francisco Bay.
RadiumOne said Chahal will continue as CEO. “I look at this as a personal matter that he and his attorneys are dealing with it,” said Bill Lonegan, RadiumOne’s chief financial officer. Chahal has hired a crisis PR specialist, who issued a press release in response to the news that calls the charges “overblown and misleading.”
On Twitter and beyond, the news was greeted with a fair amount of schadenfreude. Chahal is not your typical quiet ad tech guy. By most measures, he’s something of an egomaniac. He’s known for, among other things, a shirtless photo that has circulated widely; a propensity to call himself “G;” an Oprah appearance to plump his memoir, “The Dream;” and a propensity to overshare details of his wealth amassed from selling two ad tech companies for a total of $340 million by the age of 25.
Needless to say, Chahal has made his share of enemies. While some snickered privately at his spectacular flame-out, others took to Twitter. One executive retweeted a press release from just 45 days ago announcing that Chahal had been named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst & Young.
Others settled for cutting jokes:
@learmonth how are the pillows? Fluffy?
— Ari Paparo (@aripap) August 9, 2013
@tylerwfitch would love to see his glamour mugshot.
— Mark Mannino (@markmannino) August 9, 2013
@markmannino will definitely be shirtless w/ duckface lips. I wonder if he will put a gold G on his jumpsuit?
— Tyler Fitch (@tylerwfitch) August 9, 2013
At least one former employee expressed no surprise at the allegations, saying Chahal has exhibited abusive behavior – yelling at employees, belittling them and issuing threats – in the office.
The arrest is a test for RadiumOne, which provides social retargeting campaigns. It is well-funded, having closed a $50 million round last year reportedly at a $500 million valuation, and has 175 employees. It recently brought on former Initiative president Eric Bader as chief marketing officer. There was a company meeting this morning at which employees were told this was a personal matter and instructed to avoid discussing it on social media, according to a source.
Chahal controls 51 percent of the company, according to a source. Members of RadiumOne’s board of directors, which is chaired by Chahal, also did not respond to requests for comment.
As the dust continues to settle, this video tour of his apartment is a good primer on why Chahal is such a lightning rod: