Mark Cuban sold his stock in a Canadian Internet search business because he didn’t want to be a loser, a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer told a jury at the start of the billionaire’s insider trading trial.
Cuban sold that stake in the company then known as Mamma.com in 2004 after he learned confidentially from its chief executive officer of a private placement plan that would dilute its shares by 8.5 percent, according to the SEC.
“‘Now I’m screwed, I can’t sell.’ The evidence in this case will show those are the words of Mark Cuban,” SEC lawyer Jan Folena said in her opening remarks in federal court in Dallas. “Mark Cuban made that statement just hours before he began to sell 600,000 of a company he owned named Mamma.com. The evidence will show that was insider trading.”
In liquidating his 600,000 shares for $7.9 million before the private investment in public equity, or PIPE, plan became public, Cuban avoided a $750,000 loss, according to the SEC.
Cuban, who owns the National Basketball Association’s 2011 champion Dallas Mavericks, couldn’t wait for the information imparted to him by then-Mamma.com CEO Guy Faure to become public, Folena said.
“In his mind that’s losing,” she said during her hour-long opening. “Mark Cuban is a winner.”
Cuban, 55, is chairman of the high-definition television network HDNet, and has owned the Mavericks since 2000. He also owns the Landmark Theatres chain, has been a contestant on the television program “Dancing with the Stars” and appears regularly on the TV show “Shark Tank.”
In 1999, he sold Broadcast.com, a multimedia Web service he founded, to Yahoo! Inc. for $4.7 billion.
Cuban claims what he learned from Faure was no secret. There was no confidentiality agreement, defense attorney Thomas Melsheimer told the panel of seven women and three men.
“He never broke any promise,” Melsheimer said. “He did exactly what he said he’d do. He didn’t deceive Mamma.”
The jury was selected yesterday. The parties’ lawyers have told U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater they expect the trial to last eight to 10 days.
Fitzwater warned yesterday that that schedule may be disrupted by the shutdown of non-essential federal government services due to the legislative impasse between U.S. Senate Democrats and Republicans controlling the House of Representatives.
Cuban was the biggest stockholder of the Montreal-based company now known as Copernic Inc., holding 6.3 percent of its shares, and had offered to use his fame to promote the company and assist it with possible acquisitions, according to a Sept. 25 pretrial filing by Fitzwater summarizing each side’s claims.
Mamma.com fell 8.5 percent on June 30, 2004, the first trading day after the private placement was announced, and 15 percent the day after his sale was disclosed in a regulatory filing made public on July 2, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
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