Todd Wagner Acquires Controlling Stake in Auction Platform Charitybuzz

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Todd Wagner

Founders of both companies were brought together by none other than Harvey Weinstein.

Tech mogul Todd Wagner, CEO and founder of Chideo, has acquired Charitybuzz, the for-profit digital company dedicated to raising funds for nonprofits through online charity auctions with brands and celebrities.

The deal sees Wagner take a majority stake in Charitybuzz. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Charitybuzz, which employs 30 staffers and has raised north of $150 million for its nonprofit clients since its inception in 2005, will continue to be based in New York, while Chideo maintains its headquarters in Dallas. 

Wagner tells The Hollywood Reporter that he will continue to operate the companies separately, though he will integrate their missions and offer clients a way to get the most out of the philanthropic services they provide. "It’s very analog or old-school to integrate business," Wagner says. "One lesson I hope I’ve learned is that you leave these businesses alone while you help them grow. It’s corny, but it’s true."

The Charitybuzz acquisition comes on the heels of an announcement in June that Wagner had acquired Prizeo, another celebrity based charitable fundraising platform. Prizeo  — co-founded by Bryan Baum, Leo Seigal and Andrej Pancik — offers celebs and influencers the platform to corral their fan bases to raise funds and awareness for various causes. Prizeo also continues to operate as its own entity in West Hollywood.

The acquisition of Prizeo and Charitybuzz is Wagner’s third significant deal for Chideo in 2015. Chideo — founded in 2014 as the only charity broadcast platform — has a roster of ambassadors including President Bill Clinton, Bradley Cooper and Patricia Arquette and nonprofit partners like American Heart Association and Boys & Girls Club of America. Earlier this year, the company entered into an exclusive pact with Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., which expanded the charity network’s reach to 42 million households through 161 stations nationwide. 

"The 30,000-foot view of this is that we are trying disrupt this space in the same way that Airbnb, Uber and Amazon have (been disruptive)," Wagner explains. "The good news is that this is all positive. What all these platforms and syndication partnerships do is provide an online way to raise money. It opens up new possibilities of reaching new people and raising money in a more efficient way." 

Coppy Holzman partnered with Brad Reisner and Serena Chew to launch Charitybuzz a decade ago and since then has emerged as the leading online charity auction marketplace. Holzman will continue to oversee day-to-day activities. His company's roster of celeb supporters includes Clinton, Sir Paul McCartney, Tim Cook, Mick Jagger, Warren Buffett, Robert Downey Jr., Taylor Swift, Ralph LaurenBarbra Streisand, Howard Stern, Beyonce and others.

Wagner — instrumental in launching streaming media when he co-founded with Mark Cuban, later selling it to Yahoo for $5.7 billion — also co-owns 2929 Entertainment with Cuban, along with a number of entertainment entities, including HDNet Films, Magnolia Pictures and Landmark Theaters.

Holzman says that he and Wagner first met over coffee in the basement of 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City approximately four months ago. He credits film mogul Harvey Weinstein with bringing the two of them together. Charitybuzz has partnered with The Weinstein Co. on various charity projects over the years, Holzman explains, including auctioning walk-on roles on TWC pics and lunch with Weinstein. 

"Todd has a relationship with Harvey as well, and he suggested we get together," Holzman recalls. "I knew instantly during that coffee meeting that this was an opportunity to take our consistent and steady growth (to the next level) to have a much bigger impact. Our organizations, we have the same DNA. Todd is very sincere and is very authentic. He now can disrupt the world of philanthropy the same way he did in broadcast. That's really exciting to me."

"We’re trying to be the one-stop charity shop. If you’re a celebrity or a brand and you’re trying to figure out how to raise money and raise awareness in the online space, we can be the one-stop charity shop," Wagner continues. "If I want to plant any seed, it's that we have three amazing platforms in addition to this amazing syndication network that we are assembling that nobody has done before." 

To illustrate his point, Wagner mentioned Chideo's recent partnership with country superstar Clint Black

As for why Wagner has focused much of his business interests in the philanthropic space after making billions in the tech world, he tells THR that when he and Cuban sold their company for $5.7 billion, he examined his life's purpose.

"At the ripe old age of 37, you realize that you don’t have to work anymore in your whole life," he explains. "But you have choices to make: What do you want the rest of your life to stand for? I had a negative net worth only five years earlier and had emptied all of my savings, my 401K, used up every line of credit. I couldn’t even afford to put fish in my fish tank. Then suddenly, everything changes. There’s no script for that, but for me personally, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to give back. I’m a Midwestern kid, and that felt like the right thing to do."

Fast forward to his current situation, Wagner says he's in the midst of "a big moment." "These three companies combined are raising tens of millions of dollars each year," says Wagner, who paused to praise Holzman and his team for being a leader in the auction space. "That’s incredible reach, incredible presence and Charitybuzz lends a great deal of credibility to what we are doing."