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HOW I DID IT

Dany Levy: What It Feels Like to Cash Out--Then Watch Your Company Die

DailyCandy founder Dany Levy sold at the peak of the market. But now the company is no more.
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In 2000, Dany Levy launched DailyCandy, an email newsletter touting one great boutique, restaurant, or product a day. Eight years later, DailyCandy had amassed 2.5 million subscribers, and it sold to Comcast for a reported $125 million. But this spring, Comcast's subsidiary NBC shut down DailyCandy, stunning its subscribers and employees--and the founder herself. Levy spoke with Inc. executive editor Bobbie Gossage about the day her company died.

I actually started DailyCandy with the idea to sell it. I had this fantasy that I would sell it to LVMH for $1 million someday.

In the early days, I did a lot of things myself. I was like a crazy person. I can't tell you the number of weddings and baby showers I missed. I loved everything about the business: the content, the marketing, the design, the hiring. But I decided to make myself replaceable. You have to do that if you want to sell a company. So I had other people do television appearances. I hired around my weaknesses. I'm not a good manager, so I hired a good manager. I'm not a number cruncher or a technology expert. But I know what I don't know, and I had fun putting together a team.

I sold the company a couple of times, really. In 2003, I sold the majority to [media mogul] Bob Pittman at what some people felt was a low valuation. In 2006, we tried to sell the company. Bob put the price tag at roughly $130 million. We didn't sell, but Ares Capital did buy a portion of the company, and I was able to take some money off the table.

In 2008, we said, "OK, it's time." Comcast may not have seemed like the most likely suitor, but I liked the idea, and it was the most financially stable company. And the numbers were so large, it blew my mind. Pittman didn't want to do the deal. He thought we could hold out for much more. Our CEO, Pete Sheinbaum, was pushing for the deal. He deserves all the credit for that.

The deal was finalized on September 12, 2008. Lehman Brothers went under that weekend. I'm happy that we sold when we did. If we hadn't sold then, I don't know what would have happened.

Comcast kept me around for a few years as a consultant, but I left in 2011. The email newsletter model seemed novel in 2000, but the space got very crowded over the years. And DailyCandy failed to innovate.

When Comcast and NBC shut down DailyCandy in March, I found out about 30 seconds before the news hit. Nick Lehman from NBC graciously called to tell me. I was in L.A. on my way to the airport. I was shell-shocked, dumbfounded. I was just sad. Sad for the people who lost their jobs. The big question is why.

I have no regrets, but it's weird that DailyCandy doesn't exist anymore. I had this idea that I would be able to show my kids, "Look at this thing that Mom started!" Mostly, I miss being so passionate about something.

Previously in Inc. • Dany Levy told her How I Did It story in February 2004.

What Went Wrong After DailyCandy's $125 Million Sale

When Dany Levy sold her email newsletter DailyCandy to Comcast for $125 million, she thought she was fortifying the future of the company. This is what happened next.

IMAGE: Ryan Pfluger
From the July-August 2014 issue of Inc. magazine




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