Update: EarthStone International: Part 2: EarthStone stonewalls me.
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It took five days for George Morandin, CEO of EarthStone, to return my email requesting an update on how things were going with the company the people of New Mexico had sunk nearly $11 million dollars into as part of the State Investment Council’s private equity investment program.
While waiting for Mr. Morandin’s email reply (no one at EarthStone would give me his phone number), I thought I’d do a little poking around LinkedIn to see if there were any EarthStone employees’ profiles listed. There were. Including George Morandin, who listed himself as CEO of Growstone LLC.
I thought he was CEO of EarthStone. He also listed another current position as CEO at GAM Consulting. I Googled his name and several companies in the glass recycling industry popped up located in Ontario, Canada listing George Morandin in previous senior management positions. Which explains the Canadian cable email address I received from Charles Wollmann, Director of Communications at the State Investment Council (SIC), which he passed on to me from Fort Washington Investment Advisors – the financials services firm that now handles the EarthStone investment in its portfolio. I also Googled GAM Consulting and found a couple of firms named GAM Consulting but no George Morandin associated with them.
Growstone exists today as a spinoff company of EarthStone. It turns glass waste into plant growth medium for hydroponic and commercial uses. Sun Mountain Capital, which manages the State Investment Council’s private equity investment program, has put its own money into Growstone, said Managing Director Brian Birk. Mr. Birk did tell me in an earlier email that George Morandin was CEO of Growstone and now has moved over as CEO of EarthStone.
Frankly, the whole management musical chairs number was starting to remind me of the Abbott & Costello comedy skit “Who’s on First?”
Here’s what I found when I went looking for profiles of EarthStone employees on LinkedIn:
• Bill B. (No last name given) – listing his present title as “Sales Director – National Accounts” currently living in the Jacksonville, Florida area.
• Mark Adams – listing his present title as “Senior VP, Sales” currently living in the Chicago area.
• Jose Martinez – listing his present title as “Shipping & Receiving” currently living in the El Paso, Texas area.
• Andy Hernandez – listing his present title as “Director of Operations” currently living in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
George Morandin answers my email from Canada or from wherever he lives.
I asked Mr. Morandin the same questions I have asked everyone from the beginning of this simple update story assignment as a new reporter: Such as, How’s the company doing? What are the company’s sales figures? How many jobs in New Mexico has the company created to date? Where can customers buy EarthStone products? Who are the current members of the management team?
Mr. Morandin informed that all of my questions are proprietary in nature and therefore, “as a private company we prefer to keep them that way.” Okay, so you’re not going to tell me any business or financial specifics about a company in which the people of New Mexico have dropped nearly $11 million dollars down what is beginning to appear like a sink hole?
Well, when the founders and the company’s then-CEO wanted the SIC to give them the original $9 million dollar investment loan they were all too eager to drag out robust sales growth charts and steeply projected revenue curves. Here, in a feature story on EarthStone that appeared in the New Mexico Business Weekly in 2004 before the SIC loan agreement closed, then-CEO Scott Corriveau said that “EarthStone’s revenues were $900,000 in 2001, $1.5 million in 2002, and just under $4 million in 2003. Corriveau projected profitability by 2005.
In 2005, Mr. Corriveau was gone from EarthStone, taking a job with Ansell Healthcare back East. Back to LinkedIn. Mr. Corriveau’s profile says he was CEO of EarthStone between 2001 and 2005. He lists the following accomplishments during his managerial tenure at EarthStone:
• “Captured market opportunities valued at $1.9+ billion dollars and improved shareholder value aggressively launching new consumer business with zero valuation for start-up providing patented non-toxic, green technology.” Here’s a video I shot of the EarthStone International Headquarters in Santa Fe, New Mexico:
Indeed, this does not look like a busy company that has “captured market opportunities valued at $1.9 billion dollars,” as the then-CEO Scott Corriveau claims on his LinkedIn profile.
• “Raised $13+ million in growth capital while doubling company’s valuation and shareholder value. Doubled revenue for three consecutive years.”
It’s possible that Mr. Corriveau was the key driver behind raising $13 million dollars in venture capital – or maybe, just maybe the founders Mr. Ungerleider and Ms. Dillingham’s cozy relationship with Bill Richardson might have had just a little bit to do with them getting the money from the SIC?
Incidentally, just what does “captured market opportunities valued at $1.9+ billion mean?” Does this mean if I place a product on the shelf at a single Wal-Mart store, say the one on Coors Blvd., I can say I have “captured market opportunities valued at $421 billion dollars” (the total revenue of all Wal-Mart stores combined)?
The fact is, as soon as Mr. Ungerleider and Ms. Dillingham got their money from the Richardson-controlled SIC the promised 200,000 square-foot production facility and 200 new jobs for New Mexicans vanished as quickly as a curvy stage-assistant in a David Copperfield magic act.
“A Board Managed Company.”
When I emailed Mr. Morandin asking where he lived and how much time he spent managing EarthStone he did not provide an answer in his returned email. Rather, he launched into boiler-plate, grandiose, wobbly-speak of the company’s rosy future without giving any financial proof to support his enthusiasm.
He did provide me with an update of the status of the employees listed on LinkedIn, however. He said the company was a “board managed company” with daily business being handled by Andy Hernandez, the Director of Operations. Seems Mr. Hernandez wears several hats these days. When I emailed the website asking for the name of stores that carried its products it was Andy, as a customer service rep., who answered my email. When I phoned the company to introduce myself as a reporter working on a update story on EarthStone, Andy answered the phone as the receptionist.
Mr. Morandin did say employees Mark Adams and Jose Martinez are no longer employed at EarthStone, even though EarthStone is the current company they both list on LikedIn as their last employer.
Mr. Morandin said that employee Bill B., head of sales, has not been with the company for a year. The Sales and Marketing Director function is now being handled by “a recent graduate of the MBA program from a New Mexico institution.” When I asked Mr. Morandin her name so that I could arrange an interview with her he chose not to give me her name.
To this reporter, a company that has three cars parked in the employee parking lot, has gone a year without a head of sales, is being managed part-time by a Canadian CEO, sits in the private equity portfolio of an investment advisory firm headquartered in Cincinnati, hires a recent graduate from UNM (that’s the school Mr. Morandin was referring to but couldn’t remember its name) to head up sales, makes me comfortable enough to climb out on a soothsayer limb and predict that New Mexico taxpayers will most likely never see their money again.
This Monday: Part Three: I find the founders.
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State Investment Council X-Ray results are in. Are you sitting down?
[...] reported in the Watchdog in its three-part investigative series here, here and here last month, the SIC initially turned down Earthstone’s request for state [...]