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LeadJen co-founders sue each other after split

March 8, 2016

An apparent fallout last year between Jenny Vance and Bill Johnson—two of the area's better-known tech entrepreneurs and co-founders of a lead-generation company—led the business partners to sue each other last week over various business improprieties.

The two former Aprimo colleagues co-founded Indianapolis-based LeadJen LLC in 2004. Today, it's a multimillion-dollar operation that helps companies build sales and marketing databases. Vance resigned as LeadJen president last August.

The origin of the fallout is not entirely clear, but each party sued the other for alleged transgressions related to business-expense reimbursements. Vance also sued LeadJen and Johnson for failing to compensate her for her role as president for several months last year, and LeadJen sued Vance for hashing out a services-for-equity deal with another company without approval.

Bob Nice, the attorney for LeadJen and Johnson, said failed talks led to the lawsuits, and his party just so happened to sue first, on Feb. 29. Vance filed her suit March 1. Nice said the suits stem from an internal dispute he declined to detail. Vance was "fully compensated for her services at LeadJen and she is owed nothing at this point," Nice said.

Reached by phone, Vance directed comments to her attorney, James Piatt, who declined to comment. Johnson, also reached by phone, suggested Vance initiated the litigation after her attempt to purchase his stake in LeadJen fell through.

"We agreed on the terms and she submitted a proposal that was significantly less than those terms," Johnson said. "When I pointed that out to her, she walked away, quit the business, and now this is the way she wants to manage it—through the legal system."

Vance's lawsuit—which is 10 pages versus the three-page suit against her—said she had been a shareholder, board member and employee since the company's inception, and that she became president in November 2009.

Vance went at least five years without being paid for her role as president, her lawsuit claims, but that changed in April 2015 when she entered into a verbal agreement with the company to pay her $10,000 a month, retroactive to January 2015.

She was paid $10,000 in both April and May, her suit claims, but not for the three months before or after. She also was paid $10,000 in April and in May for "partner payroll" related to an operating agreement she negotiated with LeadJen in 2012. The nature of that operating agreement is unclear, as Nice declined to discuss the facts of the case.

Vance's suit didn't say why she resigned in early August, but after she left, Johnson removed her as managing member of the 2012 operating agreement. That September, LeadJen sent Vance a check for $11,666.67, which she believes was related to the operating agreement.

She's seeking at least $60,000 in damages for the six months of 2015 in which she was not paid a salary.

Vance also claims Johnson spent corporate finances for "non-business-related meals, cross-country flights, trips to wineries," and more, and that in 2014 and 2015, he requested roughly $27,000 in business-expense reimbursements via non-itemized account statements.

"All expenses were proper, and were submitted and paid at a time when she was in charge of the company," Nice said of Johnson's expenses.

The lawsuit against Vance claims she did not submit receipts nor detail business expenditures she made with personal finances. The suit doesn't cite a specific amount.

It also claims that, around July 2015, Vance signed up LeadJen to purchase securities from local referral-marketing software firm Reward Dragon LLC in exchange for free LeadJen services. LeadJen had bartered free services before, the lawsuit said, but Vance acted in this instance without conferring with Johnson.

Johnson said Vance is not owed anything after the company sent the nearly $12,000 check. When asked about her president's salary from 2009 to 2015, he said, "She was paid well. I'm not going to go into all the details there, but suffice to say, we both were involved in LeadJen and Salesvue, and it'll all be sorted out in the courts."

Salesvue is a sales software company Vance and Johnson co-founded in 2006.

LeadJen ranked on the Inc. 5000 list in 2013 with $2.7 million in annual revenue, a 124 percent three-year-growth rate. It had 62 employees at the time. Johnson said the company is still in operation.
 

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