Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindler
He was once known around Wise, Va., as piano player “Dazzling Dave,” a Baptist preacher’s kid and Oral Roberts University dropout. But in 1989 Stanley was convicted in an embezzlement scheme and placed on Virginia’s “most wanted” list when he fled in 1996 before making full restitution.
Many of his victims were his father’s own congregation members.
But that was a continent, an identity and an Internet investment boom ago.
Stanley recently was much better known as Michael Adam Fenne, a founder of the splashy Pixelon.com webcasting company and mastermind of last fall’s $12 million “iBash ‘99” launch party for the hot dot-com at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The Who, KISS, Tony Bennett, Dixie Chicks and several other high-profile artists turned out to perform at the launch party, accepting hefty checks and stock options in payment.
Fenne told reporters the bash was his attempt to “own” Las Vegas, and the premiere high-tech trade show, Comdex, for a weekend.
The event was netcast live on the JumboTron in New York City’s Times Square.
It also reportedly cost Pixelon one-third of its working capital. Within days, it cost Fenne his job. And ultimately, it probably cost David Kim Stanley his freedom.
Stanley turned himself in to Virginia authorities last week, just as state police were about to close in on him, or Fenne, in California.
He had pled guilty in 1989 to 55 counts of fraud and admitted to bilking victims in Virginia and Tennessee of about $1.25 million they believed was being invested in the stock market. He received a deferred sentence and the court gave him time to repay the money.
Stanley had paid back about $100,000 when he disappeared. Before long, Fenne was in Southern California, where he met Pixelon co-founder Stephen Curtis on a project to license images from the film “Star Trek: Insurrection.”
Pixelon was founded in San Juan Capistrano, Calif, in 1996.
Initially, the firm kept a low profile, compiling video clips and television performances and honing its streaming technology, webcasting Anaheim Angels and Mighty Ducks games on the Internet. Such ventures and Fenne’s “gift” for salesmanship helped raise millions of dollars for the fledgling company.
So did the explosion of “dot-com” venture investment. According to Technologic Partners in New York, venture investing leaped from $3 billion in the first quarter of 1999 to $25.5 in the same period this year.
With Internet investment opportunities being measured in minutes instead of months, the chance to throughly investigate a company and its principals is fleeting, financial experts say. Phenomenal returns have made investors so eager to jump on the bandwagon that they sometimes fail to exercise adequate diligence.
Advanced Equities Inc., a venture capital firm in Chicago, was the lead investor in Pixelon. “I can’t speak for Mr. Fenne’s past, or whatever his name is,” said Advanced Equities chief Keith Daubenspeck, according to the Los Angeles Times. Nor would he speak about whether his firm had investigated Fenne’s background.
But about Pixelon’s product, Daubenspeck said, “The technology that was developed was absolutely fabulous. I would challenge anyone to show me something that’s better.”
Pixelon executives aren’t talking about their co-founder these days either, but they did issue a statement saying they only learned of Fenne’s real identity this week and will investigate whether Stanley stole any money from the firm.
Some people are talking about Stanley, though.
A judge in Wise County Circuit Court described Stanley as “the man who fleeced his father’s flock,” referring to members of his father’s congregation, some of whom lost their life savings to “Dazzling Dave,” the “golden-tongued salesman” who once tried to own Las Vegas.