Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Zipcar Edition


Bloomberg reported earlier today that car-sharing service Zipcar is planning an IPO, based on an interview with company CEO Scott Griffith. A few hours later, TheDeal called Bloomberg’s story “a gross misinterpretation” and “nonsense,” based on a followup interview with Zipcar spokeswoman Nancy Scott Lyon. Specifically, TheDeal quotes Lyon as saying: “We did not announce an IPO and have no immediate plans to go public.”

But Bloomberg stuck by its story, telling telling Clusterstock that its interview with Griffith was on tape, and that he clearly said “2010” when asked about timing of a possible IPO. TheDeal also is holding firm, reiterating Lyon’s quote in some back-and-forth Twitter posting (yes, this is pure new media hell).

I’ve been unable to get Griffith or Lyon on the phone myself — in part due to ZipCar’s dysfunctional voicemail system — so let me partake in some idle speculation:

Let’s assume, for a moment, that both Bloomberg and TheDeal are accurately describing what they were told (even though Bloomberg neglected to use Griffith’s IPO-specific quote, which is odd). If so, then there is no reason that they can’t both be correct. 

Griffith claims the company is planning to go public in 2010, but said nothing about having already lined up bankers or other such activities (I’m told there haven’t even been meetings w/ bankers yet). Worth noting that the majority of companies planning to go public next year also are in the same boat — want to list, but aren’t going to spend money until it becomes clear an IPO window has cracked open.

Lyon claims the company has not “announced” an IPO and that it has “no immediate plans” to go public. Well, we know it hasn’t announced anything, or else Bloomberg’s news wouldn’t be news. As for “immediate plans,” it seems to me that such phrasing could be intentionally narrow. After all, would an IPO in 18 months (Dec 2010) be considered immediate? Probably not.

I guess this means I lean toward Bloomberg’s headline, but the underlying facts don’t appear contradictory. Moreover, some of ZipCar’s early angel investors are probably hoping for an IPO soon (or some other exit, like a sale to Hertz), given that they’ve been in the company for more than eight years. A bigger story would probably be if Griffith wasn’t hoping for some sort of liquidity event in the next 18-24 months…