Ex-All White Tim Brown a $650m man as Allbirds shares soar on Nasdaq debut

Allbirds, cofounded by ex-All White captain and Wellington Phoenix midfielder Tim Brown, has smashed its targets on its Nasdaq debut.

In late trading, the stock had nearly doubled in value to US29.90 meaning Brown’s 15.3 million shares in his company were worth some US$459m ($650m).

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The soaring price was also good news for a small army of Kiwi investors.

Last week, trading platform Hatch – which has edged out startup rivals Sharesies and Stake to have an exclusive on NZ investor access to the IPO – said it had some 11,000 people on its Allbirds waitlist.

“We saw thousands of investors flock to the IPO opportunity and benefit from the $15 share price. Investors are starting to consider companies that have direct distribution routes to consumers in Covid times, but also those that are considering great outcomes for our planet.,” Hatch GM Kristen Lunman told the Herald this morning.

In an SEC filing, the sustainability-focused maker of shoes and apparel said it was seeking to raise up to US$300 million by selling 20.2 million shares at between US$12 to US$14 in an IPO valuing the company at US$2 billion ($2.8b) .

In the event, Allbirds listed at US$15.00 (raising US$303m) then rose throughout the session.

The gains came despite Allbirds revealing a wider loss in a pre-IPO filing last week, and a revised prospectus that watered down some of its environmental claims.

Allbirds said that losses mounted in the latest quarter due to higher expenses. It said it expects to book a net loss of between US$15m and $18m for the three months to September 30, compared with a loss of US$7 million for the year-ago quarter.

Revenue for the September quarter will be between US$61m and US$62.5m, compared with US$47.2m a year earlier. More people are returning to its brick-and-mortar retail stores, and average order values are growing, the company said.

Allbirds was founded in 2016 by Brown and Joey Zwillinger – a renewables engineer who Brown met in San Francisco, where the company is now based.

A pre-listing SEC filing that Brown (now 40) and his co-CEO Zwillinger will each hold Class B shares with 10:1 voting rights over Class A shares post IPO.

Both will retain all of their Class B shares, according to an SEC filing, meaning ex Wellington Phoenix midfielder Brown will hold at least 15.3m shares worth US$214m ($300m) if Allbirds hits its target US$2b valuation and Zwillinger just under 13m shares.

Sustainability claims watered down

Allbirds has always had sustainability principles at the heart of its operation – an approach that’s helped to win fans and high-profile backers including Leonardo DiCaprio, Ashton Kutcher, Barack Obama, and Google co-founder Larry Page.

And in August when it launched its prospectus, it billed its upcoming listing as the first “sustainable initial public offering”.

The company – which sources Merino wool in NZ for textile mills in Italy that feed manufacturing facilities in South Korea and the US – pledged to adhere to a “sustainability principles and objectives framework” (SPO), which was developed with a consultancy group advised by academics, rating agencies and charities.

But a Financial Times analysis of a revised prospectus, released earlier this month, found that mentions of the SPO framework had been more than halved, from 65 to 33, compared to the original document.

In the revised prospectus, Allbirds removed the claim that it is “conducting this offering while following the SPO framework”.

It also deleted a warning that doing so could increase the cost of the IPO.

Allbirds declined to comment on the changes.

The firm has faced broader questions over the genuine sustainability of its business, recently. Its sneakers are made from naturally-derived materials and the company claims the carbon impact of making each pair is about 30 per cent less than that of its rivals.

However, it does not include the impact of shipping in the carbon footprint calculation, despite transporting materials around the world several times during the manufacturing process.

Allbirds faces a civil class-action lawsuit in the New York Southern District Court that alleges the brand has misled consumers with its sustainability claims. It has filed a motion to dismiss the suit.

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