The one-time tech visionary who invented Snapchat’s disappearing-photos feature vanished from the public eye after a nasty legal battle with his co-founders — and has since been accused of running amok in a swanky gated community, The Post has learned.
Reggie Brown, who co-founded Snapchat with Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy while the trio were hard-partying undergraduates at Stanford University, was pushed out of the company a decade ago. While Spiegel and Murphy became billionaires when Snap Inc. went public, Brown largely dropped off the map after winning a $157.5 million cash settlement from Snapchat in 2014 — when he was just 24 years old.
Now, a series of police reports, exclusively obtained by The Post through the Freedom of Information Act, shed light on the rejected inventor’s allegedly troubled life since he was ousted from Snapchat — despite his key role in creating the wildly popular social network — and returned to his native South Carolina.
The documents include allegations that Brown “swatted” a police officer after recklessly driving a Bentley luxury sedan during a reported music video shoot. He later became locked in an increasingly bizarre feud with his elderly next-door neighbors, who accused Brown of damaging their lawn with his car, using his large dog to intimidate them and even grabbing his crotch in front of their grandchildren, according to Columbia Police Department reports.
The Snapchat co-founder’s alleged behavior sparked outrage among residents of his close-knit neighborhood in Columbia. When police officers prepared to arrest Brown, they found out that he had left the state.
Brown and his family could not be reached directly for comment. Two attorneys who represented him in his litigation against Snapchat — James Lee and K. Luan Tran — did not respond to repeated requests for comment. A third attorney who previously worked for Brown, Ray Mandlekar, declined to comment.
‘Filming a music video’
Brown’s first documented run-in with South Carolina cops was in December 2020 in the Kings Grant gated community, where he had lived since at least 2018 when he paid $890,000 for a five-bedroom, 6,900-square-foot mansion, according to property records.
On Dec. 10, a Kings Grant security guard told local cops that day that Brown had crashed a black Rolls Royce SUV into the subdivision’s security gate, according to police records. Police responded but left the scene without speaking to Brown.
The following day, police responded again after a neighbor complained about Brown allegedly recklessly driving another car — this time a four-door Bentley sedan. The neighbor also griped that Brown and his friends were “filming a music video” at the community center, which features a pool, playground and clubhouse.
When an officer arrived, Brown was sitting in his Bentley outside the clubhouse and refused to roll down the window, according to the police report.
“I observed Mr. Brown to have a glassed over look upon his face and to have dilated pupils,” the officer wrote.
A man who was participating in the shoot then approached the police officer and explained that Brown had invited him there to film a music video, according to the police report. As the cop was speaking with the man, the Snapchat co-founder’s mother arrived, according to the report.
Brown then stepped out of his Bentley and “aggressively lunged” at the neighbor who had originally called the police, according to the report. When the police officer tried to separate the pair, Brown allegedly “swatted” the cop’s arm away, leading the cop to put him in handcuffs.
Brown’s father and more neighbors then showed up, the police wrote, adding that “the scene quickly escalated and the [responding officer] requested additional units to maintain control.”
The officer then asked Brown to perform a field sobriety test. Brown agreed, according to the report, and passed the test. The police officer took off his handcuffs and released him. It would be nearly a year before his next run-in with the law.
‘A million-dollar idea’
Brown’s Snapchat story began in 2011, when he was smoking marijuana with his Stanford University fraternity brothers, according to the book “How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars,” by Billy Gallagher.
Brown, then a junior in college, mused that a disappearing images app would make sexting with girls easier — then rushed down the hall to see his friend Evan Spiegel, with whom he often threw Red Bull and vodka-fueled parties, according to the book.
“That’s a million-dollar idea!” Spiegel responded.
Brown and Spiegel then brought in Bobby Murphy, who wrote the code for a basic version of the app. In the summer of 2011, the trio moved into Spiegel’s father’s house in Los Angeles to work on the app.
But Brown’s relentless partying reportedly alienated Spiegel and Murphy, who were concerned he was more focused on going out than working, according to the book.
Following a series of arguments, Spiegel and Murphy locked Brown out of the startup’s accounts just months after Snapchat had launched.
While Snapchat soared in popularity, Brown sued Spiegel and Murphy in 2013, claiming that he rightfully owned 20% of the company. Spiegel’s response was brutal.
“I regret inviting him into my house,” Spiegel said of Brown during his deposition in the suit, which was leaked to Business Insider. “I regret spending that time with him at my house. I regret giving him so many chances. He exploited my attempts at generosity . . . the generosity was giving Reggie an opportunity to work on something like this.”
Still, Spiegel conceded, “Reggie may deserve something for some of his contributions.”
At the same time Brown was fighting Spiegel and Murphy in court, he completed a 10-month master’s degree program in management studies at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and graduated in May 2014, according to Gallagher’s book. He reportedly did not tell his classmates about his time at the company.
In September of 2014, Snapchat finally agreed to pay Brown $157.5 million in a cash settlement that included a gag order banning him from ever speaking publicly about the company.
Snapchat also released a statement that month acknowledging that Brown “originally came up with the idea of creating an application for sending disappearing picture messages” — but it buried the news from the tech press by publishing the release immediately before Apple’s iPhone 6 and Apple Watch launch event.
Last November — nearly a year after Brown’s confrontation with neighbors and cops during the music video incident — a police officer knocked on the door of his mansion. Brown refused to let the officer inside, but cracked the door open a few inches to talk, according to a police report. It was two days after Thanksgiving.
The officer was there to confront Brown about what his neighbors said was an escalating harassment campaign they claimed he had waged against them.
Brown, the neighbors claimed, had damaged his neighbors’ lawn by driving his vehicle through it. He was also accused of shining his vehicle’s headlights into their bedroom windows and setting off his car alarm in the middle of the night to aggravate them, according to the police report.
In addition, neighbors accused Brown of walking up and down the street in front of his neighbor’s house while “making remarks to his family,” “mocking his grandchildren” and “making hand gestures,” the police report said.
Brown denied driving his vehicle in his neighbor’s lawn, entering their property or interacting or speaking with anyone while walking in front of their property, according to the report. He allegedly responded by claiming to the police officer that the neighbor had stolen half an acre of land from him and killed his palm trees.
“Mr. Brown stated [that the neighbor] has been pouring gasoline and oil down palm trees on his side of the property line which has turned them pink and killed them,” the report reads. “He stated [he] had video footage on his phone of the incident but told me he was not going to show me.”
Brown reportedly added that his neighbor’s actions could be considered domestic terrorism and said he was considering calling the FBI. He said he was considering having his neighbor hauled away to Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, a prison on the outskirts of Columbia, the police report says.
The police officer told Brown that his neighbors had asked him to stop contacting them, then left, according to the report.
Shortly after the police officer left Brown’s residence, Brown’s neighbor called again to report a civil disturbance. The neighbor told police that — minutes after the first police officer had left — Brown walked onto his property and “began using profanity and antagonizing him.”
Brown then allegedly walked back to the border between their two yards, where he continued yelling “derogatory terms” at his neighbor and his grandchildren.
“Brown then grabbed his crotch toward him and his grandchildren,” the police report reads.
The neighbor also detailed more previous alleged incidents involving Brown. He said that Brown intimidated him with a Belgian Malinois dog that he had trained to respond to German commands, according to the report.
“Mr. Brown will command the dog to bark at him, and aggressively charge at him,” the neighbor told police.
The neighbor also described a past incident in which Brown allegedly interrupted a dinner party. The neighbor and his family were entertaining guests on their front porch when Brown drove into his driveway, got out of his vehicle and “started making derogatory comments to his family and guest,” forcing everyone to go inside, according to the report.
“He and his family are afraid for their wellbeing due to the fact that Mr. Brown’s behavior had gotten more aggressive over time,” the police report reads.
When the police officer arrived at Brown’s house in response to the call, the officer said he saw Snapchat co-founder yelling at the neighbor from the back window of his house. The officer tried to speak with Brown, but he reportedly refused to come to the door.
Four days after the last dust-up, seven police officers showed up at Brown’s house and knocked on his door. They were carrying an arrest warrant for his arrest on a charge of first degree harassment.
No one answered the door, so the officers reportedly went to Brown’s parents’ house nearby. Brown’s brother answered the door and allegedly said that Brown had left South Carolina for another state.
According to the police report, Brown’s father then reportedly arrived and explained that Brown had just been dropped off at an out-of-state mental health rehabilitation center. The center charges $58,000 for a minimum 20-day stay.
The neighbors appear to have since dropped the charges against Brown. They did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.
When Snapchat went public in 2017, the Los Angeles Times noted that the company’s mysterious third founder had “vanished from public life.”
The IPO made both both Spiegel and Murphy multi-billionaires in their twenties. If Brown had settled his lawsuit in exchange for Snapchat shares instead of cash, he too could have become a billionaire.
Even with Snapchat shares down 80% so far this year, a 20% stake in the company would be worth more than $3 billion.
In August of this year, Spiegel and his supermodel wife Miranda Kerr paid $145 million for an estate across the street from the Playboy mansion, Dirt.com reported in August. Combined with a $30 million villa Spiegel and Kerr maintain in Paris, the value of the Snapchat CEO’s real estate holdings is higher than the entire cash settlement received by Brown.
Meanwhile, the other Snapchat co-founder, Bobby Murphy, reportedly owns at least nine multimillion-dollar properties in Los Angeles worth a collective $60 million.
Murphy and Spiegel are both worth more than $2 billion each, according to Forbes.
A little over a month after Brown allegedly went to rehab, he sold his house on Jan. 11, 2022 for $1.04 million, property records show. It’s unclear where he currently lives.
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