Comms Dealer prints untrue Powernet financial details, refuses retraction

Power Internet Ltd (Powernet) performance

You might think that if a magazine discovered it had printed something about a company that was not only inaccurate, but by some could be seen as potentially fraudulent, that they would be quick to put the record straight or to publish a retraction? Unfortunately, you would think wrong! Comms Dealer magazine printed an article in its February 2012 edition that contained many inaccuracies, and financial statements about Power Internet Ltd (trading as Powernet) as told by their CEO Tony Tugulu, that were simply not true. When brought to their attention they quickly amended the online article, but point blank refused a retraction of the printed version. But why?

To begin with I feel I must make it clear why I am objecting to this, as you may think it is none of my business. Ignoring the public interest, that this could be construed as fraud by misrepresentation, it actually contradicts claims that I make when engaging with potential clients and others in the industry. Since I have worked most of my career in the Internet Industry, I have many contacts that will no doubt read Comms Dealer, and see a version of events that is clearly somewhat different from what they have otherwise heard from me, as former Managing Director of the company. This is damaging, as it implies that one of us is not telling the truth – fortunately in this instance the truth is quite easily proven. This is not an attempt to embarrass Tony Tugulu, CEO of Powernet, who was interviewed in the article, or Comms Dealer magazine, but rather an attempt to set the record straight given the refusal to retract what I consider to be a misleading and damaging article.

The article in question is littered with inaccuracies, incorrect information, and misleading statements made by Mr. Tugulu, most of them inconsequential. However there are number of points he makes that are not true that I believe are either fraudulent or damaging, and it is these that I take issue with as I believe them to be a deliberate attempt to either mislead the public, or to try and undermine the achievements of myself and the previous Senior Management Team at the company.

  1. In the article Mr. Tugulu claims “We have operated profits for all 16 years of the business”. This is completely untrue, the company has had years in which it has recorded losses. I am proud of my efforts of 2007-2009 in turning around the fortunes of Powernet, resulting in some of the most profitable years in the company’s entire history at the time. Without breaching company confidentiality and releasing financial figures, it is my firm belief, that without the strong leadership of myself and the Senior Management Team I appointed in 2007, that the company would have quickly failed. The downturn shown in the illustration has not only happened since Mr. Tugulu was appointed as CEO, but also with the Senior Management appointments I made departing in under 12 months of me leaving.
  2. In the article, Mr. Tugulu also claims “If you invested £500 in 1994 with us you would have received £20k within the first three years of the investment”. People that invested in the company so that it had funds to start-up did see significant returns over the next 3 years, however it was nothing like the forty-fold return Mr. Tugulu claims. Again, I will not publish the actual returns as I have no wish to breach the confidentiality of the company.
  3. Mr. Tugulu has form when it comes to making claims about the company that are not true. In early 2011 an article appeared in Milton Keynes Business Citizen in which Mr. Tugulu implied that the company’s turnover for its most recent financial year (which would be end of August 2010) was £6.5m. This is not true and Power Internet Ltd could do much worse than publish a full set of accounts rather than an abbreviated set which enables the turnover to be hidden from public view, given that the CEO is content to speak so publicly about it. The article in question can still be found online. See the update on this at the end of this article.
  4. You would be forgiven for believing in reading the article in question, or many of the other interviews with Mr. Tugulu, that he founded the company in 1995 and has been at the helm ever since. This is not true. There were several years where he was neither an employee nor Director of the company, which can be verified by public documents at Companies House. During this time he set-up a company which in my opinion attempted to compete heavily with Powernet. This may explain the inaccuracies in some of his comments whereby he talks about events at Powernet which took place when he wasn’t there, events he had no involvement in, events I believe he knew very little, if anything about.

One can only wonder why Mr. Tugulu attempts to paint a picture of the company and its events that is somewhat separated from the truth. You will also need to draw your own conclusions about why Commsdealer would not want to ensure that where serious factual mistakes are made in articles they publish, that they wouldn’t feel it necessary to publish a retraction or correction.

I contacted various parties about the intention of publishing an article highlighting these issues, allowing them the possibility to comment or put their version of events:

  • Timico, Owners of Powernet since June 2011. They submitted no response.
  • Tony Tugulu, CEO of Powernet since late 2009. He submitted no response.
  • Nigel Sergent, Editorial Director of Commsdealer. He submitted no response.
  • Michael O’Brien, Managing Director of Commsdealer. He submitted no response.

If you think it is important that companies remain honest, transparent and above board then please share this article. If you think Comms Dealer are wrong in not issuing a retraction, please share this article, and tell them what you think. Have you placed business with a company basing your decision upon information you later found out was not true? We would love to hear your stories, leave a comment below.

Update 02 Oct 2012: Powernet has filed its 2011 accounts which is a 16 month period due to a change in accounting dates post acquisition. These published accounts are full and include the turnover figure for the current period, and the previous period where Mr. Tugulu had claimed a £6.5m turnover. The published accounts give the real figure to be just under £4.4m, showing a gross exaggeration (or heaven forbid, a deliberate lie?) of the previously claimed figure by Mr. Tugulu. You can confirm this for yourself by downloading the 2011 accounts from Companies House for a nominal fee.

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