May 25, 2011 at 1:59 PM ET
For reasons unfathomable to finance writers, tech bloggers and fangirls, teen-pop sensation Justin Bieber is endorsing a rather shady company and its anti-texting app.
Business Insider attempted to round up some of the details about the whole deal, but it's a convoluted drama filled with questionable investments, strange company structures, a convicted felon, rumors of a car theft ring, and an app called PhoneGuard Drive Safe.
The basic story appears to be that Bieber will be given given 121 million shares of Options Media Holdings, the company behind the Drive Safe app, at "roughly a penny per share" and "earn royalties on every piece of software he sells" in exchange for spitting out lines in support of the app:
Justin Bieber commented, "It is tragic that almost on a daily basis there are reports of deaths and severe injuries caused by drivers who are texting and driving. We need to change the attitudes in our society toward texting and driving and I am making it one of my personal goals to make this happen. Every night we perform we have a banner that goes up that says 'Don't Text and Drive' so it really means a lot to me. We are planning to continue to give $1 from every ticket sold to this cause and the addition of PhoneGuard to this team will help us expand our efforts even further."
While the intentions and cause seem benign at the core, Business Insider, Gather, and the Broward Palm-Beach Daily Pulp point out that Bieber's association with the anti-texting app is rather peculiar. Options Media Holding is a tiny 10-person company based in Boca Raton, Florida, and it's got a seemingly shady past and a concern-worthy financial state:
The man who created the software has a criminal record that includes being part of a stolen-car ring, according to documents. And analysts have questioned the finances of Options Media, which had almost no money in the bank and a reported $10 million in losses.
Anthony Sasso, creator of PhoneGuard, said his racketeering conviction is in the past, and he downplayed his role in the car-theft ring. "I'm a convicted felon," he said from the company's Boca office. "What else?"
As of Monday, Sasso was listed in PhoneGuard's annual report as the company's president, and a man who answered the phone at the company and identified himself as a spokesman confirmed that.
However, when Options Media CEO Scott Frohman learned from the Pulp on Monday about Sasso's criminal record, he said he asked Sasso to resign. Sasso will also no longer have voting rights as a stockholder and will have no relationship with the company, Frohman said.
Those strange details aside, the app Bieber is endorsing certainly sounds like it should be a hit among parents — if they feel like spending $29.99/year (or $4.99/month) on a mobile app instead of simply teaching their kids to be safer drivers:
PhoneGuard's revolutionary Drive Safe™ anti-texting while driving software application suite disables the texting, emailing and keyboard functions of a mobile phone in a vehicle is in motion. By using GPS to track speed and coordinates, the Don't Text Don't Drive Mobile Application automatically turns off certain functionalities of the driver's mobile phone when the phone is in a moving vehicle. Thus, the user will no longer be able to text, email, surf the web or instant message while driving.