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July 9, 2012

Unrepentant Vaccaro to rejoin TicketNetwork

HBJ Photo | Pablo Robles Donald Vaccaro, founder of TicketNetwork, at his office in South Windsor in 2012.

Contentious executive Donald Vaccaro will rejoin his South Windsor company TicketNetwork in August, convinced the incident that cost his company $8 million in state support and put him on probation was the fault of his accuser.

"This is history behind me now," Vaccaro said. "Even though it is ongoing, it is nothing more than a nuisance lawsuit, which businesses face all the time.

"Look, Apple gets sued more than anybody because suing people is an easy way to make money," Vaccaro said.

Vaccaro will become executive chairman of TicketNetwork when he comes back officially on Aug. 1, not returning to his previous position of chief executive officer. The two long-time employees that filled his role during his absence — Doug Kruse and Jeff Scheman — will stay as co-CEOs.

"I'm going to take a backseat to most of the day-to-day operations," said Vaccaro, who will focus on the long-term vision for the company.

In February, Vaccaro took an indefinite leave from the company he founded after he was arrested on a slew of charges including intimidation based on bias stemming from an incident with a bouncer at an Academy Awards party in Hartford. Vaccaro was placed in Connecticut's Accelerated Rehabilitation program. As a result, the incident will be expunged from his criminal record once he completes two years of probation.

The bouncer has sued Vaccaro.

"At a later point in time, we will go into what was said, and people will understand," Vaccaro said.

Because of the incident, TicketNetwork voluntarily withdrew from Gov. Dannel Malloy's "First Five" program, which would have awarded the company $7.75 million in state loans and grants in exchange for growing to 492 employees within two years. Before the company withdrew, Malloy was having his office and the Department of Economic and Community Development re-examine the state's relationship with TicketNetwork.

The company has no intention of trying to re-establish that "First Five" relationship or obtain the $7.75 million after Vaccaro comes back on board, he said.

However, Vaccaro said the state would be wise to give the money to the company anyway, as TicketNetwork already grew to 440 employees and plans to cross 500 by year end.

"The money would be nice and would help us grow faster and employ more people," Vaccaro said. "Supporting us makes sense for the state."

Despite the lack of "First Five" money, Vaccaro plans to keep TicketNetwork in South Windsor, at the facility formerly occupied by Gerber Scientific. The company moved there from Vernon, after the town blocked Vaccaro's ambitious expansion plans.

"We have no intention of changing anything we are doing now for location," Vaccaro said. "It is business as usual at TicketNetwork. We are not only staying here in Connecticut but growing in Connecticut."

After the incident at the Academy Awards party, Vaccaro said he met with TicketNetwork's clients and stakeholders to assuage any concerns they might have.

For stakeholders who invested within the past year, Vaccaro offered to buy back investments at a loss to him, but no one took up the offer. As for the company's customers, there wasn't any loss of business, Vaccaro said.

"Entertainment people know how stuff gets blow out of proportion because they deal with it all the time," Vaccaro said.

Upon returning to TicketNetwork, Vaccaro said he looks forward to launching new ticketing products in the third quarter. He also plans to foster side business Entertainment Financial — also known as Rehab Cash Now — which has $18 million in outstanding, high-interest loans to people to flip houses.

"I'm looking forward to getting going," Vaccaro said.

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