Something is rotten in the state of California: One of YouTube’s most divisive stars, Jake Paul, appears to have alienated some of the closest members of his social media squad, Team 10.
At least two of Team 10’s biggest on-screen talent, including its chief operating officer, have left Paul’s group of creators in the past week. The squad, which includes a handful of core characters and a smattering of supporting members who flit in and out of the videos, are led by Paul. They’re arguably the biggest such collective of creators on YouTube, and are going on tour in a matter of weeks, making the rift—supposedly caused by a reshuffling of the behind-the-scenes crew—even more damaging.
This past weekend, Nick Crompton, one of the co-founders of Team 10 and its chief operating officer, left the company.
“Due to internal changes being made within our various businesses that I don’t agree with, I have resigned both as chief executive officer and talent,” Crompton said in a statement released through his Twitter account. “I still love my Team 10 family but the vision for the business, people involved and direction it’s going in no longer makes sense to me.”
Crompton, 23, moved from England to Los Angeles in late 2016 to join Paul’s YouTube group, after working for Social Chain, a U.K.-based social media marketing agency as the head of talent.
On May 7, Crompton was followed by Chance Sutton, a childhood friend of Paul’s who moved to California a little over a year ago from Ohio, and has been part of a YouTube double-act with another hometown friend, Anthony Trujillo.
“I believe it is in the best interest for the future of my career that I start to focus on myself,” Sutton wrote in his own statement posted to Twitter.
The pain of the departures will be dented somewhat by a provision in the standard Team 10 contract which gives Paul a cut of future earnings on YouTube from ex-members of the squad, but both the departing statements give some insight into the troubles with Team 10. An unnamed source told the DramaAlert YouTube channel, the TMZ of YouTube, that Greg Paul, the Paul brothers’ father, has taken over the running of both his sons’ businesses and introduced a significant cost-cutting regime, including significant layoffs in backroom staff.
The Paul brothers’ father is also alleged to be an abrasive character, which appears to have been confirmed by a tweet made yesterday by Crompton in response to Greg Paul. “People had issue[s] with being verbally abused, watching their coworkers be fired around them and not being kept in the loop,” Crompton tweeted.
Greg Paul’s self-described “internal business audit” may be necessary: Creating viral content can be costly. Paul has been sued at least twice: One for allegedly wrecking the mansion he and Team 10 previously lived in, for which he’s on the hook for $2.5 million, and the other for emotional and physical damage after a prank involving honking a car horn at the public. He also purposefully broke the windshield of a $292,000 Ferrari for a video which was then involved in an alleged false insurance claim.
The new management’s cutbacks to back office staff—which, DramaAlert claims, were carried out in a ruthless fashion—resulted in disquiet among some members of Team 10. “This whole thing is all falling apart around Jake’s feet,” Daniel “Keemstar” Keem, DramaAlert’s host, told audiences.
Team 10 is one part of a suite of businesses the younger Paul brother operates in an attempt, he says, to become the Dr. Dre of YouTube.
It began in August 2016, and has seen significant turnover in on-camera talent in the 20-odd months it has existed.
Paul started Team 10 (the name, by Paul’s own admission, doesn’t mean anything) with six other creators, none of whom are still part of the group today. One, Alissa Violet, a former flame, subsequently released a platinum-selling “diss track” (YouTube’s first ever) with another popular YouTuber, RiceGum, which accused Paul of bullying and infidelity.
With these latest departures, at least 13 former members of Team 10 are no longer part of the group. According to DramaAlert, at least another two members of Paul’s entourage—including his personal videographer—are rumored to be leaving the group shortly.
There has long been tension within the Team 10 business model, which appears on the surface to be a collaborative effort but in reality exists to further the Jake Paul brand. In part, this is down to the simple reality of the comparative fanbases that each creator brings to the group: Sutton has 2.6 million subscribers to his joint channel with Trujillo, compared to Paul’s near-15 million followers. (Crompton, who has never really been a standalone on-screen talent, has just shy of half a million subscribers.) But at times, the other members of Team 10 are little more than background actors for Paul’s vlogs. They’re often compelled to wear his merchandise and mill around in the background while he addresses the camera; for a time, Paul took to blurring out any Team 10 member who appeared in his videos not wearing his merch.
For YouTube watchers, Paul’s public persona has become increasingly money-grabbing in recent weeks. Paul has become one of the first non-gaming YouTubers to utilize YouTube’s sponsorship widget, which allows subscribers to financially support their favorite creators through a recurring monthly payment (a similar version of which exists for those streaming gaming on the channel).
The sponsorship tool was introduced by YouTube in response to a number of creators, including cultural commentator Phil DeFranco, a kind of Jon Stewart for YouTube with 6.1 million subscribers, grousing about declining ad revenues and a number turning to Patreon, which operates the same model, to supplement their YouTube income. It’s also an attempt to head off creators migrating to Twitch, which offers similar financial incentives.
Last weekend, Paul sent out a “personalized” email to people who have previously bought some of his merchandise encouraging them to become what he calls a “super sub.” In exchange for $4.99 a month, fans who sponsor Paul on YouTube will get access to “exclusive merch sales, extra content, live streams” and the chance to help him design new merch and have input on new vlogs. “So stoked for this!” Paul writes.
He’s also struggling to sell out venues on the 21-date Team 10 tour, which begins in two weeks. The tour promises “live musical performances, audience participation, special guests, games and challenges”—essentially, Paul’s crazy YouTube videos made into flesh. More than 500 tickets remain available for the opening night of the tour, May 22, at Comerica Theater in Phoenix, Arizona. The event is only using one of the three tiers of seats available at the 5,000 capacity venue.
That’s not the only worry the YouTuber will have about his upcoming tour. With these latest departures from Team 10, Paul may struggle to fill the stage, never mind the seats.