All the way up into the 2010s, it had that look and feel, too, of a previous era of the internet. And perhaps because of that, its pronouncements on the veracity of subjects had a kind of authority that other media fact-checkers lacked. People, at least as many as possible in today’s crazed informational environment, trusted Snopes.
The founders divorced in 2015, some titillating details of which became public. Both founders received 50 percent of the company.
In the summer of that year, Bardav had entered into an agreement with a newish San Diego company called Proper Media to “provide content and website development services as well as advertising sales and trafficking” to Snopes. Proper Media’s principals were Chris Richmond, who co-owns a wiki called TV Tropes, and Drew Schoentrup, both now described in court filings as residents of Puerto Rico (more on that shortly).* Each of these men had a 40 percent share in the company. They were joined by three other people who had smaller equity stakes: Tyler Dunn, Ryan Miller, and Vincent Green.
In July 2016, Barbara Mikkelson sold her half of Bardav to these five men, leaving her ex-husband with five new partners in the company. Because Bardav was an S corporation, its shareholders had to be people, not other companies. So, the stock purchase agreement between Mikkelson and the men assigned them each equity on the same split that they had in Proper Media.
Diamond Creek Capital financed a big chunk of the deal with help from Barbara Mikkelson herself. Each of the five men in on the deal from the Proper Media side signed personal-liability notes with Diamond Creek Capital.
For a time, it seemed as if the arrangement was working out. The San Diego Union Tribune visited the Proper Media offices, out of which Snopes employees were working. The story featured Vincent Green, a former Marine who’d been an intern only months before, and Brooke Binkowski, the site’s managing editor and a long-time journalist.
“Before we came on board, there was not even a content-management system for the site,” Green told the paper. “It was an excruciating process for developing content. What you see now is our quick and dirty change-over from 20 years of bad code to something more responsive and functional.”
But behind the scenes, there was trouble. Proper Media’s CEO and president had moved to Puerto Rico, according to a cross-complaint filed by Green, and corroborated by their own filings. They set up a separate company there, which Green claims was a tax-avoidance scheme that he told them he was uncomfortable with.
Meanwhile, in a story as old as media, the site’s editors worried that the co-owners didn’t understand what Snopes was, and that they only wanted to juice its revenues, so they could sell it.
On February 18—in a much disputed series of events—Green and Proper Media’s largest shareholders, Richmond and Schoentrup, had a contentious meeting. In the weeks that followed, Green either left or was forced out, and he went to work at Bardav, which is to say Snopes, where he remains.