Insight: Little-known Hollywood investor poised to score with Twitter IPO

Thu Oct 3, 2013 7:37pm EDT
 
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By Ronald Grover and Gerry Shih

LOS ANGELES/ SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - When Twitter goes public in coming weeks, one of the biggest winners will be a 47-year-old financier who guards his secrecy so zealously that he employs a person to take down his Wikipedia entry and scrub his picture from the Internet.

Over the past two years, Suhail Rizvi, founder of New York private equity firm Rizvi Traverse Management, has quietly amassed a stake of more than 15 percent in the microblogging phenomenon for himself and his investors at a cost of more than $1 billion, according to three people with knowledge of his investments.

While Rizvi was known to be an investor in Twitter, the extent of his involvement had not previously been reported.

Twitter made its IPO registration documents public late Thursday, setting the stage for the most closely watched initial public offering since Facebook's in 2012. Rizvi Traverse is listed as one of the institutional shareholders with at least a 5 percent ownership stake, but no further details were disclosed.

The shares Rizvi purchased were distributed among investors via multiple vehicles, sources said, and the size of his personal stake is not known.

People with direct knowledge of his investment activities say that Rizvi, backed by Chris Sacca, a former Google executive and Twitter investor, was instrumental in attracting large private investors to the microblogging site, serving as matchmaker between the company's founders and global financiers from Wall Street to Riyadh.

Rizvi declined to comment for this article. Sacca, a longtime friend, gave him an entree into tech investing in 2011 - when Twitter was still struggling to make money. From there, Rizvi scored stakes in some of the most sought-after Internet startups, from Facebook Inc before it went public to Square and Flipboard.

Rizvi's string of tech deals came amid intense competition among hedge funds and private equity investors to secure shares in startups, highlighted by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner's 2009 investment in Facebook.   Continued...

 
A tweet from Twitter Inc. announcing its initial public offering is shown in this photo illustration in Toronto, September 12, 2013. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang