Fisker loses key board member as bidders circle company

Tue May 28, 2013 6:49pm EDT
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By Deepa Seetharaman and Sarah McBride

DETROIT/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Fisker Automotive, the cash-strapped "green" car maker that is seeking a buyer, has lost an influential board member who was key in attracting investors to the startup in its early days.

Ray Lane, 66, resigned from the board on Friday, Lane's venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and the car maker confirmed on Tuesday.

His exit comes as Fisker fields offers from at least two different groups looking to resurrect the automaker, which hired bankruptcy advisers this year.

One group, backed by Hong Kong billionaire and Fisker investor Richard Li, is looking to buy the Fisker's government loan for pennies on the dollar. This unusual strategy is favored by some investors who would like Fisker to avoid a bankruptcy.

But Kleiner Perkins concluded it was better for Fisker to be led by board members who supported the company's new options, including the loan purchase, people familiar with the firm's thinking said. This led Lane, partner emeritus at Kleiner Perkins, to resign from Fisker's board.

Lane, who was not immediately available to comment, remains on the boards of a handful of other Kleiner-backed companies.

Kleiner Perkins was an early investor in Fisker and Lane was among the company's most visible and vocal supporters. The backing of Kleiner Perkins and Lane helped Fisker raise hundreds of millions of dollars in financing from private investors.

Despite a promising start and some celebrity fans, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio, Fisker suffered some missteps during the launch of the Karma which drained the company's coffers.   Continued...

The logo of an extended rage electric vehicle Fisker Karma is pictured at the start of an electric car rally from Tallinn to Monte-Carlo in Tallinn June 1, 2012. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins