Singapore blogger crowdfunds $99,000 to pay PM: Court case

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A Singaporean blogger said on Monday he had raised S$133,000 ($98,840) via crowdfunding on social media to cover damages he was ordered to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a defamation case filed by the city-state’s leader.

Lee had sued Leong Sze Hian, a financial advisor, after he shared on Facebook an online news article that linked the premier to a financial scandal at Malaysia’s state fund 1MDB.

Lee’s lawyers have said such links were “false and baseless”. Leong had deleted the November 2018 Facebook post within three days of sharing it, complying with a government request.

The Singapore high court on March 24 ordered him to pay Lee S$133,000.

“I am very happy, very grateful,” he told Reuters on Monday.

Leong made the announcement on Facebook late on Sunday, when he posted: “It is finished. All paid for.”

As the head of a government that has pledged zero tolerance of corruption, Lee, 69, is no stranger to seeking to protect his reputation via legal channels.

Senior figures in the ruling People’s Action Party, including Lee’s late father and the founder of modern-day Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, have previously sued foreign media, political opponents and online commentators for defamation.

($1 = 1.3456 Singapore dollars)

Hertz Partners with Centerbridge, Warburg and Dundon: Joint venture

(Reuters) – Hertz Global Holdings Inc said on Saturday it has selected an enhanced proposal from Centerbridge Partners, Warburg Pincus, and Dundon Capital Partners to provide the equity capital required to fund the car rental company’s exit from Chapter 11.

The proposed deal, which is subject to approval by the U.S. bankruptcy court for the district of Delaware, is supported by holders of over 85% of the company’s unsecured notes, Hertz said in a statement.

Under the deal, the supporting noteholders have given the green signal to support the exchange of the unsecured funded debt claims against the company for approximately 48.2% of the equity in the reorganized company, and the right to purchase an additional $1.6 billion of equity.

They have also committed to purchase, or otherwise backstop, the full $1.6 billion of equity being offered to the holders of the company’s unsecured funded debt.

“This plan accomplishes all the goals we set out to achieve through our financial restructuring. Our new sponsors combined with our strong leadership team will bring significant operational experience across fleet financing and management, which will benefit all of our stakeholders,” Chief Executive Paul Stone said.

Hertz filed for bankruptcy protection in May as travel plummeted during the pandemic, slamming the car rental business, and talks with creditors failed to result in much-needed relief.

On March 2, Hertz said two investment firms — Knighthead Capital Management LLC and Certares Opportunities LLC — will buy a majority stake in the company for $4.2 billion under a restructuring plan expected to help it out of bankruptcy by early- to mid-summer.

Digital gym-on-a-wall startup Tonal raises $250 million at $1.6. billion valuation

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – Digital gym-on-a-wall startup Tonal, which sports big names like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Serena Williams as investors, said on Wednesday it raised $250 million in its latest round of funding, valuing the company at $1.6 billion.

The San Francisco startup’s CEO, Aly Orady, said the company’s revenue last year jumped eight times the level of 2019, with the pandemic forcing people to work out at home.

According to data firm PitchBook, home exercise startups raised $3.02 billion in venture capital globally last year, up from $1.79 billion in 2019.

At-home-fitness plays on the stock market have been hit on concern the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and re-opening of gyms could hurt their prospects.

Peloton Interactive Inc dropped close to 40% from its high in January, and Nautilus Inc lost about 50% from mid-February levels.

“My sense is that the market is over-reacting to reopening,” said Orady, adding that Tonal’s sales momentum is holding up even with the vaccine rollouts. “We don’t believe that people were switching to at-home-fitness temporarily during COVID and intended to go to gyms. It’s accelerated a shift in people’s mindset toward working out at home,” he told Reuters.

Orady, a supercomputer engineer who struggled with his own weight problem, Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea, quit his job in 2013. He dropped 70 pounds and started strength training at the gym when he had the idea for Tonal – to pack massive gym equipment into a compact wall hanging.

The $3,000 mirror-like box streams video coaching and adjusts its weights according to the person using it to work out. The video coaching requires a monthly subscription.

Tonal said the latest round, led by Dragoneer Investment Group, an investor in Airbnb, DoorDash and Peloton, brings the total raised to $450 million.

Digital banking firm Greenwood restructures capital

Atlanta-based Greenwood, a digital banking startup designed for Black and Latino consumers and businesses, said on Thursday that it had raised $40 million from a host of U.S. financial institutions.

They included Truist Financial Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Corp , Wells Fargo & Co and Citigroup Inc.

The startup will use the cash injection to build the business, with plans to launch its first products this summer, Ryan Glover, Greenwood’s Chairman and co-founder said in an interview.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc, Mastercard Inc, Visa Inc, FIS, Banco Popular, as well as several venture capital firms such as SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund, also participated in the round.

First announced in October, Greenwood was created to provide online banking services to help close the wealth gap faced by Black and Latino communities in the United States. It plans to offer services such as non-predatory loans, as well as the ability for customers to round up purchases and donate what they save to organizations aimed at advancing their communities.

Greenwood is one of several digital banks that have emerged over the past year focused on communities, a sector traditionally underserved by the mainstream financial sector. Other online banking startups include First Boulevard, Daylight and Cheese.

Founded by entrepreneur Glover, alongside Civil Rights leader Andrew J. Young and rapper and activist Michael “Killer Mike” Render, Greenwood has signed up more than 500,000 users to its waitlist since being announced.

“This multi generational wealth gap problem will take an all hands on deck solution,” said Glover, noting that the startup’s mosaic of new large investors could help it advance its ambitious goal. “It will take collaboration and community to advance racial equality and financial empowerment.”

The round was led by Truist Ventures, Truist’s corporate venture capital division.