Why would someone toss $1.35m at Wikipedia?
Jimbo Wales catches VC from Bono on Mexico City rooftop
But these weren't the only meetings between Elevation Partners and the Wikimedia Foundation. After the Mexico City trip, Wool claims, the entire Foundation board met with Marc Bodnick, who happens to be the brother-in-law of Sheryl Sandberg, the top Google sales exec who recently took over as Number Two at Facebook.
"There was a board meeting in Rotterdam in January 2007, and Bodnick walked in," says Wool, who was present at the meeting - though he was not a board member. "Half the board didn't know who he was, but I said hello. Then everyone else signed a [non-disclosure agreement], and I had to leave."
According to Wool, Bodnick also met with the board on several other occasions, and each time there was an NDA.
In the meantime, Roger McNamee started donating. During the 2006 fiscal year, he gave about $70,000 in Google stock, and in fiscal 2007 he donated another $286,000 - also in Google stock. When McNamee made his first donation, the foundation did not have a brokerage account, and it was Wool who opened one. All of this stock was sold prior to the end of fiscal 2007.
In the months since Wool left the Foundation, McNamee has facilitated additional donations. Foundation executive director Sue Gardner told The New York Times that the Elevation partner "lined up" a $500,000 donation in December and a second $500,000 donation just last week.
When we phoned Elevation Partners and spoke to Marc Bodnick, he referred all questions to Roger McNamee and said that McNamee is on vacation. Likewise, we didn't get an answer from the Wikimedia Foundation. But in speaking with The New York Times, Jimmy Wales claimed that Elevation's involvement with the Foundation ended after a single meeting.
"It took one meeting for them to realize it was off the table," Wales said. "Certainly there can be no investment in Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a non-profit and always will be." But Wales did acknowledge a personal relationship with McNamee, claiming the venture capitalist acts as "a bit of a mentor in doing fundraising". And McNamee said that his involvement with Wikipedia had nothing to do with Elevation.
"I am a Wikipedia volunteer - I help with strategy, fundraising and business development - it has nothing to do with Elevation Partners. And no one should be confused about that," McNamee claimed.