The Florida Agenda is no more.
The weekly print newspaper here in South Florida stopped publishing last week after it’s parent company Multimedia Platforms Worldwide was effectively shut down when a judge ordered the seizure of all of its assets and cash on hand.
Related: Florida Agenda Files for Bankruptcy
The lawsuit that led to that order alleged the management team of Multimedia, the baby of local publisher and CEO, Bobby Blair, engaged in fraudulent and deceptive trade practices, along with negligent misrepresentations.
“For the record, I was re-appointed CEO last week as I became informed all this was happening by management,” Blair responded. “The last 4 months I have not been involved or included in any day-to-day business or involved in this now disputed credit facility.”
On Tuesday Multimedia filed for bankruptcy in South Florida.
However, the petition was for chapter 11 reorganization, so if the company can present a viable business plan to the court within 90 days, which it approves, one day down the road they conceivably could start up again.
Locally, Multimedia owned the bar guide, Guy Magazine, which they recently rebranded as Next, after acquiring that publication in New York.
Over the past two years, the company went on an acquisition spree, also buying up Frontiers magazine in Los Angeles and Fun Maps, which was later renamed Wirld Maps, tied into their startup of an Internet product, Wirld.com. Last year, the company went public, and began selling penny stock shares, while boasting that it was the first LGBT media company to ever to go public.
Ten months ago, Blair painted a rosy picture of the company’s future with an end of the year release that listed their many “accomplishments:”
- Multimedia Platforms LLC went public in January of 2015, becoming Multimedia Platforms Inc. with trading symbol, MMPW.
- Raised over $3 million for development and expansion.
- Acquired 3 additional global LGBT media brands, considered to be among the highest level media companies in the LGBT media space, and brought a North American corporate footprint, with a global audience.
- FunMaps (over 40 US & International cities)
- NEXT (NY, New England, and throughout the Northeast US)
- Frontiers Media (Los Angeles, and throughout the western US)
- Increased the online followers and readers by a very significant number.
The much anticipated WiRLD.com, a global LGBT media hub, featuring a global news stand, global social media business directory, real time social media network and an online entertainment network featuring drama series, documentaries, comedy shows, live simulcast events and a global rewards program, is ready to be launched early 2016. The strategic investment has positioned the Company to take advantage of the $900 Billion US LGBT market (over $3 Trillion, globally).
At the time Blair had this to say:
“The MMP brands represent 7.5 million readers and 4 plus million unique online visitors, annually. As the company continues to grow, we continue on a 24-7 basis to be the go-to LGBT news, social media, and entertainment platform that allows us to chronicle the social change our country and world are experiencing, and the mission to ensure that our LGBT community enjoys true equality, acceptance and opportunity around the world.”
Then President of MMP, Peter Jackson, also boasted about the company’s future saying “2015 has been a year of successive accomplishments that have exceeded our most optimistic projections. We look forward to continuing this momentum in the coming year.”
Jackson left the company this year and now works for HotSpots.
Since that press release, Blair left his position as CEO to become Chairman of the Board, but last week, he was reinstated as CEO after much of the management team abruptly resigned, following a notice of default by their lenders.
SFGN reached out to several employees of the Florida Agenda, editor Richard Hack and publisher Maura Lane, for comment with no response. Meanwhile, the company had branded itself as “the world’s largest gay media conglomerate.”
The suit filed by White Winston Select Asset Funds in the Suffolk County Civil Court of Massachusetts, renders the future of the company uncertain.
The complaint led to an immediate and summary seizure of the all of the assets and cash on hand of Multimedia. The lawsuit is seeking damages in the amount of $1,750,000.
The allegations included in the complaint charge that the management team of Multimedia, headed by then CEO Peter Frank, engaged in fraudulent and deceptive trade practices, along with negligent misrepresentations, in order to induce the transaction.
The complaint says that the loan was approved in order to keep Multimedia afloat, with their company then assigning its assets and proceeds back to White Winston’s clients, the ‘credit facility.’
The monies from the credit facility would not be advanced at once, but provided for MMPW to draw upon the funds, as needed, subject to the plaintiff’s approval. During the period of Aug. 8 to Sept. 1, 2016, MMPW submitted and received five funding requests in the amount of $140,367.71.
Each draw required the defendants to certify that the funds were needed to cover their operating expenses and “no event of default under any of the loan documents exist.”
However, incumbent upon the defendants was an obligation to immediately supplement the closing with various documents and records outlining and authenticating its collections, receivables, and collateral.
The complaint reads: “Only due to the defendants need for a cash influx to prevent a default on their other notes, White agreed to close and fund the loan on short notice, with the majority of due diligence to be conducted immediately post-closing.”
The complaint alleges that while the company took advantage of cash advances, the defendants also engaged in other misconduct constituting unjust enrichment, breach of good faith, and deceptive practices.
The plaintiff, White Winston, says the loan was based upon them securing a priority lien over all of MMPW’s assets and receiving MMPW’s daily revenues and receivables in a “lockbox.”
According to the complaint, that never happened. Instead of depositing all of its proceeds in a secure account to pay back the loan, between July 26 and Sept. 9, MMPW only put away $604.75.
When White Winston balked, saying MMPW represented there should be over a hundred thousand dollars in the account, they only added another $23,943.
Then the plaintiffs discovered they were being screwed in yet another way. They accused MMPW of diverting these funds, which should have been paid to White Winston, into a secret account the defendants had failed to disclose at the closing.
In its due diligence, the plaintiff, alleges, they uncovered signs that the defendants may have falsely ‘cooked the books’ in order to secure the loan in the first place, representing that cash and receipts due them were false from the outset. At least one local businessman called SFGN to complain he was a victim of this practice.
As a result, in the second count of the lawsuit, the defendants were accused of “failing to exercise reasonable care and competence in their representations” prior to the closing of the transaction.
All these acts, the plaintiffs allege, were done willfully and knowingly, and unjustly enriched the defendants. MMPW purportedly violated the Massachusetts General Laws, by engaging in unfair and deceptive acts in trade and commerce.
If proven, representations such as these can potentially lead to Securities and Exchange inquiries, and even federal criminal charges as it involves interstate commerce.
In its most recent quarterly filings with the SEC, MMPW had warned that the financial viability of the company was in doubt, and that it was millions of dollars in debt, likely to close with no further financing. The court granted an order providing the plaintiffs the preliminary relief and temporary restraining order they sought. It bars them from: “conveying, transferring, concealing or otherwise disposing of any cash collateral or accounts receivables under their ownership or control, or under the ownership or control of any of defendants’ wholly owned subsidiaries, until further order of this court.”
Blair, who is now the lone remaining executive officer of MMPW, has said he intends to “fight the case vigorously,” laying blame on the “new management team” employed in July. As of yesterday however, no lawyer had filed a notice of appearance for Blair or any of his companies.
“They screwed up, and I have to fix it,” he said.
A resilient and popular amateur former tennis pro, who published a book about his life, ‘Inside the Baselines,’ he has bounced back from business adversities before.