The BitTalk Media Meltdown

On Thursday, Bitcoin Magazine announced that they are moving forward under new ownership. In a related forum post, Bitcoin Magazine director Mihai Alisie laid out what we should all expect from Bitcoin Magazine under their new ownership – in short, a few changes but mostly the same good stuff we’ve come to expect with new names on the paperwork. Later in that same thread, however, something dramatic occurred…

Former board member Vladimir accused Mihai of having performed the transfer of ownership fraudulently, claiming that no proper shareholder vote was performed. Mihai’s counter-argument, that Vladimir effectively forced the transfer of ownership by nearly bankrupting the company on his way out. According to Mihai, Vladimir:

  • Failed to turn over access to company bank accounts and funds after his resignation
  • Awarded himself, without consent, a substantially large exit bonus (amount unspecified) that “has brought BitTalk Media on [sic] the brink of collapse”
  • Charged the magazine 80GBP/hour to speak with him about things he should have handled before resigning
  • Included his wife on the board and awarded her equity for accounting work never performed
  • Failed to explain more than $20,000 in expenses including
    • $8,000 for 8 months of WordPress hosting
    • 300 GBP per month for office space he used for other businesses
    • $3,000 for “digital publication” software that the magazine neither wanted nor needed

If the above accusations are true, it’s no wonder the magazine is now under new ownership. If they’re true…

Thus far Vladimir’s only response has been to quote Mihai’s forum post, supposedly to protect against future edits, with the comment:

Quoted for pending legal action. I have received multiply reports of Mihail Alisie distributing false statements about myself in attempt to vilify me in eyes of a number of my friends and business partners. Many false statements of facts were made similar to the above.

Fanning the flames, former board member and still-shareholder Adam Harding replied:

Shame on you Vladimir for destroying all of our hard work. As Mihai pointed out there was a deal that would have seen 65k of capital injection that would have kept the magazine running under its previous ownership for another year without any additional revenue. For reasons unknown to this day, Vladimir refused to let the deal go through and it also resulted in a precipitous drop in share value. If there is any legal action to be had it is against you Vladimir.

Finally, when contacted for a statement, Mihai simply replied:

I believe that this matter should have been discussed with me/us privately and not on the forums….and without charging BitTalk Media for writing an email. Again.

I should note that while I’m not so involved as to create a conflict I’m perhaps too involved in this story to be entirely un-biased. I’ve written for the magazine and I chat on occasion with Mihai, Vitalik and Adam. Thus far I’ve never spoken with Vladimir so perhaps that makes him an outsider who I trust less than the others. To that end I’m withholding any sort of judgmental language or premature conclusions. I will, however, as I am wont to do, put the question to a vote:

Who do you believe?

View Results

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I’ll also say that as much as we’re competitors I also have tremendous respect for Bitcoin Magazine and the good work they do and whichever side emerges victorious, I hope the magazine isn’t harmed in the process.

Update: Mihai has provided me the following invoices which were apparently created by Vladimir, approved by Vladimir and paid (to himself) by Vladimir:

Humorously, Invoice 10002 has a line item (bottom of the first page) for the time spent creating and paying invoice 10001. Vladimir apparently had (and still has) access to the PayPal and bank accounts of the business. According to Mihai neither he nor Vitalik agreed to the payment of the above invoices, but they have been paid anyway without consent.

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